The mayor of West Lincoln is in hot water again, this time after asking a woman in Ontario's Niagara region if being vaccinated for COVID-19 changed her menstrual cycle.
Dave Bylsma, who has already faces criticism and a future court appearance for participating in an anti-lockdown rally, sent Emily Spanton the message on Facebook on Tuesday.
"Good day Emily," he said. "I haven't seen your posts in awhile so I have assumed that we've been unfriended. Fair enough if true. Not my concern right now.
"I do think you'll give me an honest answer. You posted that you received the vaccine a while back correct? Not a usual question to ask an acquaintance but did you notice any change in your period? Again it's also none of my business I respect your person and privacy."
Woman chose not to answer mayor's question
Spanton, an avid volunteer in St. Catharines, said the question was startling and invasive.
She said her previous messages with Bylsma, who she had indeed unfriended on Facebook, were largely around civic issues such as his former chairmanship of the Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority.
The last messages they'd exchanged, she said, were in the fall when she told him she disagreed with his anti-lockdown stance.
She didn't respond to his message about the vaccine and menstruation.
"I don't see anything that I could say that would turn this into a productive conversation," she said.
"If he said, 'Emily, I have some questions about vaccines,' I would have made time for that conversation."
She believes Bylsma asked the question in good faith, but "there is so much about his statement to be unpacked."
Bylsma said he knew the question to Spanton was risky, but he "gave her the option of not divulging anything she did not want to."
"I did ask the question privately to someone I genuinely thought would give me a fair response based on a professional dialogue that has spanned many topics that have arisen during this pandemic," he told CBC News in a text message.
"I've had constituents raise serious concerns about experiencing the worst menstrual symptoms following the vaccine. I'm merely trying to ask a difficult question about an uncomfortable topic."
Niagara regional chair 'deeply concerned'
As West Lincoln's mayor, Bylsma also sits on the council for the Niagara Region.
Regional chair Jim Bradley issued a statement late Tuesday condemning the question and apologizing to Spanton.
"I am deeply concerned and troubled that Coun. Bylsma would engage in conversation with a resident about personal matters that are so clearly none of his concern," Bradley said in the statement.
"It is exceptionally disappointing that a statement needs to be issued on a topic of conversation that is so obviously inappropriate. These types of interactions are embarrassing, and reflect poorly on our entire community."