A group of 12 people who refused to wear masks and wanted to speak during the Pitt Meadows council meeting, ended up delaying the meeting by an hour this week.
During the Oct. 26 regular council meeting, 12 people entered city hall refusing to wear a mask while in the facility, claiming they had medical exemptions. According to Mayor Bill Dingwall, the corporate officer informed him and councillors just before the meeting was about to start that this group was refusing the provincial mask mandate applicable to everyone entering the city hall.
“As the mayor, I am responsible for running council meetings here, and under the community charter I have that authority to run a council meeting and make sure that it is not disruptive, and to say that an hour lost is not disruptive would not be correct. It was,” he said at the beginning of the meeting which started an hour late.
When asked later about the delay, Dingwall told The News the group claimed its members were all medically exempt.
While community members don’t need to show proof of vaccination when entering the city hall, they have to wear a mask, based on the provincial mandate that requires people to wear masks in indoor settings. While the mandate allows for those medically exempt from not wearing a mask indoors, “having a valid reason not to wear a mask does not guarantee you access to an indoor space,” says B.C.’s Human Rights Commission.
The group was asked to leave, but they refused citing discrimination and their right to attend the meeting. Dingwall said the group wanted to attend the meeting to speak during the question and comment period.
“All I know is that they were here for political reasons, and they were rude,” he said, adding this prompted council to involve the RCMP in the matter.
When the RCMP arrived, they asked the group to leave. They also asked the group for proof of medical exemption. Two members of the group then asked if they would be allowed inside if they agreed to wear a mask and Dingwall allowed the two in.
“Thank you to the people that have chosen to put a mask on and stay; I will caution people though during question and comment period if political statement is being made that I believe is out of order and not applying to city business, I will rule you out of order and if necessary, the mic will be shut off. We won’t be entertaining anything to do with vaccine passport or masks in our council chambers,” he said once the meeting started.
Dingwall later said he regretted letting the two in, as one of them spoke at the podium on matters unrelated to Pitt Meadows council, and engaged in discussions around vaccinations and masks, despite his specific directives.
The woman who spoke at the council from the group of 12, Susan Einarsson, was not a Pitt Meadows resident, but was from Maple Ridge, and talked about discrimination due to vaccine passports and mask mandates.
“I am asking here now to all councillors as we now face another issue in our society, where we are vilifying people, treating them badly, excluding them, to stop and think, really think, what that does — not only to the human beings at the receiving end, but to society as a whole,” she said.
VIDEO PROVIDED BY AN INDIVIDUAL WHO OBJECTED TO THE COUNCIL’S MASK MANDATE:
But when the mayor asked her to get to matters pertaining to the Pitt Meadows council and the city matters, she said, “I am just here to commend Councillor Simpson for standing up for the unvaccinated.”
She was immediately asked to step away and her mic was turned off.
This, however, was not the the end of the incident. When the meeting concluded, six from the original group blocked the exit to the city hall. They then accosted the mayor.
“They were rude, said it was shameful, claimed discrimination and I know other councillors were also accosted by these individuals,” he said.
“What was really sad was that I didn’t recognize anyone from them. They may be part of Pitt Meadows or may be not but this is not the place for that sort of protest.”
Following the incident, the Pitt Meadows council is now looking into bringing some form of security measures in the coming days, Dingwall said.
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