The first council of the 2021-2024 term passed a motion to require proof of vaccination certification to municipal facilities at the Nov. 8 regular council meeting and if there is any final takeaway, it is that residents should be questioning the level of reasonableness of those opposing Covid-19 vaccine mandates.
To be sure, the conviction of some residents not wanting to get the shot is real and ought to receive some patience and sympathy from the community.
Healthy questions around the merit of a required vaccine, the extent of power distributed by the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer through the Public Health Act, what constitutes choice versus coercion, the definition of body autonomy in the context of a pandemic, and what happens when personal conviction runs up against job security – are all warranted and welcome points of discussion.
Specific to municipal governance, whether town council ought to be put in a position to have to make a decision on whether a proof of vaccination certificate should be required in order to open its facilities and in doing so barring unvaccinated ratepayers from services – should surely be raised.
But all of these points- if they are to persuade other residents and decision makers- need to be done coherently and with a certain levelheadedness.
The persistent yelling from street demonstrators, which challenged the audibility of much of the Nov. 8 regular meeting – needs to be denounced in the strongest possible terms.
As a frustrated Mayor Kandis Jameson told us following the meeting: “If you (demonstrators) are fighting for freedom and rights, then let democracy run its course. Instead, they’re trying to interrupt that process.”
This is a small town and we all have to live in close proximity to one another. The health of a community like ours relies on showing respect and good faith to process and rules and at least a basic, broad agreement that these are not easy questions for local elected members to make.
The idea that the newly sworn-in council last week would have actively positioned itself to oppress those who don’t want to get the vaccine or isn’t trying to find the best solution on behalf of most residents – is completely bonkers.
In reality, the final vote went 5 to 3 showing that roughly half of council (not including the non-voting mayor) sympathized with people who took the anti-proof of vaccine stance enough to support them with a vote. Two of those members were the newest ones elected.
Even among those who supported the proof of vaccination certificate in order for the town’s recreation centre to open – clearly had extremely torn feelings about having to make the choice.
At least one reported being physically sick and losing sleep while another one was in tears ahead of the vote.
Surely these sentiments and councillors trying to in good faith weigh the interests of the town count for something.
We hope that the required proof of vaccine certificate allows the recreation centre to reopen in as safe and as orderly fashion as possible so that as many Hay River residents as possible can access the facilities they enjoy and pay for.
We also hope that last week’s vote doesn’t cause too much inconvenience or bitterness among those who have strong feelings against taking the vaccine and who as a result have no certification to access the facilities.
We welcome the new council and thank them for doing their best to lead the community in the best direction possible. Good luck in the coming term.