Red Deer city councillors are not included in new mandatory vaccination rules that apply to all local municipal staff and volunteers.
Acting city manager Tara Lodewyk said administration can’t put forward a motion requiring councillors to get vaccinated. That would have to be made by someone on council — and then all of council would have to vote on it.
It’s too early to tell whether this item will be added to the council agenda, said Lodewyk. City council’s first meeting on Monday was scheduled for only a swearing-in ceremony.
Earlier this month, the City of Red Deer announced a new immunization policy designed to take pressure off the health care system: City administration and volunteers must all be fully vaccinated by Nov. 28.
Politicians, as well as Alberta legislature staff, were included in the provincial government’s mandatory vaccination rules that took effect on Monday.
Lodewyk noted city council will still be largely meeting from home and conducting Zoom-style meetings, with no date set yet for in-person council meetings to resume.
If all councillors are not vaccinated by the time council is again meeting at City Hall, she said various options could apply — including showing a negative COVID-19 test before each meeting, or joining the meeting virtually, from home.
Kraymer Barnstable and Victor Doerksen said during the campaign they are against mandatory vaccinations. Barnstable stated on Facebook video that he got COVID-19 and is not an “anti-vaxxer,” but can’t support mandating people to put substances into their bodies. Doerksen wrote in a campaign profile that ran in the Advocate that no one should be coerced into making personal health care decisions.
On Monday, Doerksen said, “My vaccine status has no bearing on my ability to be a councillor,” while Barnstable said, “I firmly believe that my vaccine status is between myself, my family and my doctor.”
Last May, the councillors who have since been re-elected — Mayor Ken Johnston, Coun. Lawrence Lee, Coun. Vesna Higham, and Coun. Dianne Wyntjes — confirmed they received their first of the jabs that medical experts say are needed to end the pandemic.
Re-elected Coun. Michael Dawe said he had a vaccine scheduled last spring, but came down with COVID-19 and ended up the hospital for six weeks. He is still recovering.
The Alberta Human Rights Commission has ruled that personal preference over whether to get vaccinated, is not protected ground under the Alberta Human Rights Act.
“Getting a COVID-19 vaccination is voluntary. However, the requirement to show that a person has been vaccinated before they can enter certain businesses is permissible under the Alberta Human Rights Act, as long as those who have a valid exemption are reasonably accommodated,” states an explanation on the Human Rights website.
”For example, a business does not necessarily have to accommodate a person who is not vaccinated by permitting them to physically enter the business, office, or establishment. Other methods of accommodation, such as curbside pickup, would also meet a business’s human rights responsibilities.”
Earlier this month, the City of Red Deer made double vaccinations necessary for all staff and volunteers to protect the health care system and people’s health and safety.
“As one of Red Deer’s largest employers, we (taking) the next step in protecting our community and our healthcare system, and today, this is through our new internal immunization policy,” stated Lodewyk.