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Pitt Meadows councillor says she is not welcome in council chambers

Coun. Anena Simpson refuses to disclose her vaccine status, attends meeting online
Coun. Tracy Miyashita (left) and Coun. Anena Simpson took part in the Sept. 28 council meeting via Zoom. (screen grab)

Vaccine passports are not being checked at Pitt Meadows city hall.

So it was unclear why a Pitt Meadows city councillor Zoomed into the Sept. 28 council meeting instead of being there in person and why she spoke about her stance against the vaccine passport system.

Pitt Meadows Mayor Bill Dingwall said two city councillors were given time to speak about why they did not attend the meeting in person: Coun. Tracy Miyashita and Coun. Anena Simpson.

“I would grant that to any one of our councillors if they so chose,” he said.

Coun. Anena Simpson went first.

“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.

Any member of the public or city councillor is allowed in council chambers without a vaccine passport check – and without divulging personal medical information. But Simpson’s statement, at the time, went uncorrected by the mayor and councillors, who all spoke in favour of vaccines.

Asked later why Simpson’s explanation about attending the meeting virtually was not corrected during council, Dingwall said the “assumption” (that Simpson made about the requirement to show a vaccine passport) was made online by a number of residents. He said this “assumption” was corrected online by Coun. Bob Meachen.

“And Bob Meachen did correct that very clearly on all the various sites, including the personal one for the one councillor, and he made it very clear,” said Dingwall.

The only visible clarification was posted by Meachen on Oct. 3 at 10:59 a.m. on a private Facebook group called Protecting Pitt Meadows.

“Regarding access to city hall, at this time, a ‘vaccine passport’ is not required by anyone wishing to enter city hall or to enter the council chamber or chamber daïs. This may change if the province changes requirements, but this is the current situation,” the post read.

Meachen said safety measures and meeting protocols – including wearing masks and physical distancing while seated in chambers – are in effect to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19.

“These are the facts! Mayor and five councillors have publicly declared that they have been double vaccinated and we carry a vaccine-passport as required to access some public functions etc. as part of our duties as public officials,” he remarked, before personally urging everyone to think of others and get vaccinated.

Simpson’s comments at council were followed by Coun. Tracy Miyashita, who explained that she chose to stay home because she had a cold and wanted to keep council members safe – a position Dingwall said follows new council policy and the provincial health officers’ recommendations that if a person is not feeling well, they should stay home.

READ MORE: Pitt Meadows councillor calls vaccine passports discriminatory at meeting

After the meeting Simpson indicated that she is not welcome in chambers and that she chose not to attend the meeting based on a closed conversation that she couldn’t discuss.

“I am not saying I was forbidden,” she told The News.

Simpson explained that before the council meeting she received a text from Mayor Dingwall, who was concerned she would not disclose her vaccine status.

“I said I will not disclose, and I repeated that I would not disclose, and he said, ‘that’s not fair, nor does it work for me’,” recounted Simpson.

Then he informed her that they were going to have a closed meeting to discuss it.

“And I can tell you, that as a result of the closed meeting, I Zoomed in,” she said.

RELATED: Anti-vaccine passport protests erupt across B.C.

Simpson went on to say she was very surprised about Meachen’s statement online.

“That he is intimating there’s no reason for me to stay home and that he is intimating that I am welcome in council chambers,” is something Simpson wants clarified from council, as a whole.

It is true, she said, that vaccine passports are not being checked.

“But from my perspective, it is deceptive what [Meachen] is saying and does not reflect what was said to me,” she told The News.

“If mayor and council are comfortable with me being in council chambers, that would be news to me. That would certainly be a surprise and if mayor and council are prepared to welcome me into council chambers, I would love to know about it. I would love to hear that.”

Dingwall confirmed that the public are required to wear masks and if council passes by the gallery when they enter chambers, they must wear a mask until they reach the daïs at the front end.

“I can clearly state again that we don’t require a vaccine passport to enter city hall, and all of council is aware of that and all of council was aware of that,” said Dingwall.

He noted that he will be speaking to council and asking them to restrict their comments to their liaison reports in the future.

“I think both Miyashita and Simpson had an opportunity to make a comment and that’s it. So, we’re not doing this every week,” he said.

When asked why Simpson was not at the council meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 5, Dingwall replied that those are personal choices.

“She made comments last week about that, and I would go simply by what she said and then we’ll move forward,” he said.

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Colleen Flanagan

About the Author: Colleen Flanagan

Colleen Flanagan is an award-winning multimedia journalist with more than 15 years experience in the industry.
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