After a successful motion on Monday, a draft COVID-19 vaccination policy for the Chatham-Kent council and those who serve voluntarily on committees and local boards will return to council on October 4.
Councillor Joe Faas entered the motion requesting council to direct staff to return with a report for approval at the next municipal meeting on October 4.
“I feel that it is our part to lead by example,” said Faas, while noting citizens and businesses are being encouraged to do the same.
Faas’s motion calls for council and volunteers to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19 or proof of a medical exemption. His motion received strong support from West Kent Coun. Melissa Harrigan.
She reminded council that Chatham-Kent is among the worst in terms of the number of COVID-19 cases per capita in Ontario and one of the lowest vaccination rates.
West Kent Coun. Melissa Harrigan, who supported Monday’s motion, said vaccination is still a choice but that other people have the right to be protected from potential exposure if they sit on a committee.
“This is not something we are imposing on people,” she said. “Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is still a choice. This policy here is just protecting people in the community who are choosing to volunteer—people’s rights end where others begin,” she said.
Harrigan said it would simply provide a safeguard and not ultimately force anyone to get the shot against their wishes. She added that vaccination is the best way out of the pandemic.
While the motion was up for discussion, some said they’re not anti-vaccination, but they were disinclined to make the decision for others to get vaccinated against the virus.
Councillor Steve Pinsonneault, who is a volunteer firefighter, said he’s fully vaccinated but was reluctant to support the motion. He said getting vaccinated should be a choice, adding the municipality could lose good volunteers by imposing vaccine mandates.
“I made a choice to vaccinate as soon as it was available, and I believe that was the right choice,” he said. “However, at the end of the day, it was my choice to do it. I can’t support forcing anybody to get vaccinated. In my opinion, this should remain a choice.”
A request for information regarding the municipal staff vaccination policy to also come forward was made by Councillor Doug Sulman. He said it would make sense to have those details when council makes a final decision.
General Manager of Corporate Services Cathy Hoffman said she could provide an update in the report.
“We just rolled it out to our employee group late last week,” said Hoffman. “We’ve been giving them a chance to review it and understand it and ask questions before implementation.”
Bird Bouchard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Ridgetown Independent News