A majority of city councillors say they would not support requiring proof of vaccination at city facilities.

City administration presented the Governance and Priorities Committee of council with a memorandum detailing its proposal Nov. 1, citing increased staff and public safety along with the ability to increase capacity limits as its goals.

City manager Sheila Bassi-Kellett called the proposed vaccine mandate “a clear path forward” and said the goal was to protect city employees and facility patrons while allowing as many people in as possible.

She advised while the city could apply for a capacity restriction exemption from public health, it would only allow for a comparatively small capacity increase due to the high risk of transmission during recreational activities.

Chairing the meeting, Mayor Rebecca Alty said the only other ways we’ve been told to protect ourselves and community from the virus outside vaccination — masking and staying six feet apart — just aren’t possible when playing soccer or hockey, for example.

She told the committee 87 per cent of Yellowknifers over 12 years old are fully vaccinated.

Coun. Robin Williams said he would be “uncomfortable” barring any resident from a city-run facility “that their tax dollars paid for.”

“I’m disappointed this is something we’re even talking about,” he said.

Coun. Steve Payne called the proposal “non-inclusive in nature” saying vaccine-mandated access to city facilities created “a two-tier class system” and would “contribute to kids being bullied” for not being vaccinated.

On Oct. 8 the Northwest Territories Human Rights Commission issued a statement advising that requiring proof of full vaccination in order to access a business or service or as a condition of continued employment is not a violation of one’s human rights.

Read: Statement on Mandatory Vaccine Policies and Passports

Coun. Julian Morse said he agrees that community division is an unfortunate outcome of a vaccine mandate but disagrees as to its source and pointed to those spreading misinformation about vaccines as the root cause.

Coun. Rommel Silverio told the committee while he, himself, has three shots and is a health care professional he wouldn’t support the proposal because he believes all taxpayers should have access to all public facilities.

Coun. Niels Konge told the committee “we’re pretty low on the totem pole” as far as public-health decision-making is concerned.

He shared that his nephew chose to be vaccinated against his parents wishes and that has caused division in the family.

“His parents aren’t vaxxed,” he said. “It’s difficult.”

He said he would only support the mandate if there was a blanket exemption for children under 18.

“It hurts and I’m angry about it,” Konge said of the division.

He continued, likening barring unvaccinated individuals from city facilities to segregation policies where there were “people who weren’t allowed to sit at the front of the bus.”

Coun. Shauna Morgan said she was “feeling nauseous” about comments conflating discrimination faced by people of colour under segregation polices to the consequences of choosing to not be vaccinated.

“It is profoundly disrespectful,” she said.

She told committee members society already mandates actions that limit personal freedoms for the greater social good: like vaccines kids have to get before starting school, for example.

“This is not something that’s unprecedented,” she said. “I see this as an obvious thing we need to do.”

She said she’s heard from parents who are scared to take their unvaccinated kids under 12 to public recreation facilities for fear they’ll contract the virus.

She said she would support the mandate when council votes, Nov. 8.

Coun. Stacie Smith boiled the decision down to fairness saying it was discriminatory and favoured “the haves” over “the have-nots.”

“I’m opposed to going forward with this,” she said. “Everyone should have access.”

Alty told the committee she heard “many complaints” from people who couldn’t access city recreational facilities last winter because of capacity caps.

She reminded the committee that city administration is legally obligated to provide a safe workplace for its staff.

Alty echoed Morgan’s position that limiting personal freedoms in favour of the greater social benefit is not unprecedented, citing seatbelt laws as an example of when someone’s non-compliance with safety rules can negatively effect others.

When someone doesn’t wear a seatbelt and an accident happens, they can become a projectile and harm others as they’re thrown around the vehicle, she said.

City council will vote on whether to introduce a proof-of-vaccination policy for city facilities at its next meeting, Nov. 1.

Leave a comment

Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.