A District of West Vancouver councillor has apologized to the community for travelling to the U.S. during the December holidays despite pandemic-era advice to stay home, labelling his actions as "a lapse of judgment."
Coun. Peter Lambur has spent the past two weeks in quarantine after travelling with his wife to Big Sur, California, to visit family.
"Following the last council meeting of 2020 [Dec. 16], I travelled with my wife to Big Sur, California, to see my six-month-old granddaughter for the first time,” Lambur said in an email forwarded to North Shore News by Donna Powers, District of West Vancouver spokeswoman.
Lambur travelled outside of British Columbia, despite the provincial health officer's advice that "all non-essential travel should be avoided."
The municipal councillor, who was first elected in 2016, has received negative backlash for travelling during the pandemic, with many people calling for him to resign, and on Jan. 8 he penned an open letter to residents, apologizing for his actions.
"In retrospect, I see this as a lapse of judgment and apologize to those who are upset and angered by my decision to travel, when many of you put your own plans on hold," he wrote in the letter.
"I am sincerely sorry."
Lambur pointed out that his trip complied with all provincial protocols and Government of Canada rules, including COVID-19 testing prior to departure and isolation in the family home in California, but says he now regrets his decision.
He took a second opportunity to “wholeheartedly apologize” to the public for his actions at the district’s general council meeting on Monday, Jan. 11.
“As an elected official, there's an expectation that I would observe public health orders and lead by example,” he said.
“Now, while I planned my travels with safety as my uppermost concern and followed all travel guidelines before and after my trip, I neglected to consider how in my role as a councillor my actions might be viewed by my constituents given the pandemic environment, which we all know that stubbornly resisted abatement and has upended everyone's lives.
“I regret my decision to travel and wholeheartedly apologize for my actions.”
He also took a moment to address the calls for him to resign.
“While some have been vocal in their opinion that I should resign, I am encouraged by the many letters and calls of support I have received,” said Lambur.
“Moving forward please know that I'm fully committed to doing my part to support our mayor and council and district staff in their efforts to ensure a safe and secure environment for everyone in West Vancouver.”
Mayor Mary-Ann Booth, who was not made aware of Lambur’s travels until media began enquiries, also spoke at the meeting, saying Lambur had since apologized to her and council for his decision to travel.
“As I have said before, I believe that as elected officials we are held to a higher standard to model the behaviour we ask of our community,” she said.
“Some members of the public have been calling for stronger action to be taken. Neither I nor council have that authority.”
She went on to commend district staff and the community for all their efforts and work during the pandemic and “doing their best to stay safe and keep others safe.”
Lambur returned home on Dec. 31 and remained in quarantine until Jan.13.
His apology letter can be read in full below.
In response to the controversy surrounding my recent travels to the United States, I want to take this opportunity to explain my actions and extend apologies to those I have offended. At issue is compliance with the provincial recommendations regarding non-essential travel. This has been and continues to be strongly discouraged and as an elected official there is an expectation that I would observe public health orders and lead by example.
From the outset of the pandemic, I have stayed close to home, seldom venturing beyond the North Shore since March of last year. In early December, I cancelled a previously planned trip to Whistler on the advice that all British Columbians should recreate locally within the region where they reside. However, later that month I had planned to travel to California for a long-anticipated visit to meet my six-month-old granddaughter for the first time. I monitored conditions at my destination in the weeks leading up to my departure and took care to plan my trip to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure. I complied with Provincial protocols and precautions and Govt. of Canada rules and travel advisories. At the end of it all, I had to plan for a mandatory 14-day quarantine period (now in my ninth day).
While I planned my travels with safety as my uppermost concern, I neglected to consider how, in my role as a local government elected official, my actions might be viewed by you, West Van residents, particularly given a worsening environment fraught with frustration as pandemic metrics continue to stubbornly resist improvement. In retrospect, I see this as a lapse of judgment and apologize to those who are upset and angered by my decision to travel when many of you put your own plans on hold. I am sincerely sorry.
Moving forward, please understand that I remain committed to doing my part to support our mayor and council and district staff in their efforts to ensure a safe and secure environment for everyone in West Vancouver. And when circumstances permit, I look forward to being able to meet in person again.
In closing, I don’t think it is inappropriate to recall Dr. Bonnie Henry and her essential advice: Be Kind, Be Calm, Be Safe.
Councillor, District of West Vancouver
Elisia Seeber, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, North Shore News