As the Sept. 28 council meeting was winding down in Pitt Meadows, Coun. Anena Simpson took a sip of water before explaining why she was not in the council chamber in-person.
“This is very personal for me and it’s also an issue of leadership for me,” said the councillor, before she disclosed her position on the implementation of vaccine passports by the province.
“I am online tonight because I would not disclose my personal health information to my colleagues and this is because I cannot endorse or support a discriminatory vaccine passport system,” said Simpson.
Coun. Simpson explained that she is not able to disclose her vaccination status because she has chosen not to participate in the vaccine passport system.
She said she is very concerned about the direction vaccine passports are taking the community, the province, and the nation, noting there are vulnerable people who are being marginalized.
“But thankfully there are others – both vaccinated and unvaccinated – who are standing up for their protection. People are fighting for freedom, and this is not just for themselves or their own freedom, but for all of us and for our children.”
And Coun. Simpson said, she is standing with those people.
Simpson added that pressuring people to take medicine they do not want and demanding that they disclose personal health information is unethical.
“Canadians do have a right to bodily autonomy and we have a right to religious freedom and freedom of conscience. And British Columbians have the right to refuse to consent to any medical treatment for any reason,” said the councillor, adding that she believes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is being violated by the vaccine passport system.
The councillor finished by saying those who are not vaccinated are “becoming ‘the other’ among us, they are becoming untouchables’, people who are undeserving of rights or freedoms. Many, she said, are voiceless and powerless.
“The protection of individual and minority rights are too sacred and our liberty is too precious to give up without a fight.”
“And tonight I have spoken on their behalf,” she said.
Simpson’s speech prompted replies from the rest of council – all of which have been double vaccinated.
Coun. Tracy Miyashita was also taking part in the meeting by Zoom, however, she said, she chose to stay home because she has a bit of a cold and wanted to keep her council members safe.
Then she expressed her gratitude to health care and frontline workers whom, she said, have spent the entire pandemic trying to keep us safe. And she also acknowledged the people across the globe who worked on a vaccine.
“In light of what Coun. Simpson just said, I just really want to say that that’s her choice, but my choice is to do that and I do encourage residents to keep getting vaccinated if you aren’t and we’ve got to return to normal,” she said.
Coun. Bob Meachen said he will be getting the third vaccine dose as soon as it becomes available. He also explained he is a diabetic and his wife has significant health issues and added his support to the need for vaccines and the vaccine passport.
“I encourage everybody to get vaccinated and it just cuts down one level of stress for all of us,” Meachen said.
Coun. Gwen O’Connell said she doesn’t understand why people don’t get the shot.
“My sister’s next-door-neighbour died this morning – 39-years-old – and left two young children because he was an adamant anti-vaxxer,” she said. Many, in fact, in her family, she noted, are anti-vaccine and tell her she is going to be a “zombie grandma”.
“Then I’ll be a zombie, but I’ll be a live zombie,” she said before moving on.
Coun. Nicole MacDonald knows two people who died from the disease.
“This is real and there is plenty of science and expertise to back up all the research with COVID and the vaccinations. I am double vaxxed because I have parents and a mother-in-law that are incredibly vulnerable,” she added to the conversation.
MacDonald noted that health care workers are “tired and depleted” and the people coming through the door of the hospitals, who are filling the ICU and dying, are the unvaccinated.
“The vaccine passport is about choice. And that is your choice to get the vaccine or not,” she said, before commending the provincial government on the direction they’re going.
“We are not out of this,” said MacDonald, pointing to the revised COVID rules mandated by the province in the eastern part of the Fraser Valley.
Coun. Mike Hayes said early in the pandemic he had a close friend who was “minutes” away from losing his life to COVID.
“And seeing a strong, young, healthy man whittle down to basically bare bones was a lot to take,” he said.
“I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone that would not want to be vaccinated,” he said.
Mayor Bill Dingwall said that while he didn’t share the comments and the position of Coun. Simpson, he does believe in democracy – in addition to public safety and everyone doing their part for the greater good.
Dingwall told the crowd online and at the council meeting that for the past 31 years he has been living with Crohn’s disease – a condition, according to the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, that causes inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
“I’m immune compromised,” said Dingwall.
Every six to seven weeks he goes for a three hour infusion, and his specialist told him, if he gets COVID he could become really sick or die.
“So it is very, very important, I believe, for all of us to do our part,” he said.
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