Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan’s decision to travel to Arizona for a holiday has been sharply criticized by many. Advocate file photo

Red Deer South MLA Jason Stephan’s decision to travel to Arizona for a holiday has been sharply criticized by many. Advocate file photo

Updated: Red Deer MLA supports easing COVID restrictions for Family Day

Jason Stephan says he has been contacted by 28 ministers and hundreds of congregation members

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan said he agrees with the dozens of pastors and hundreds of congregation members who have contacted him urging that restrictions on family gatherings be lifted.

Stephan said many want the restrictions lifted so the can celebrate Family Day together.

“I agree,” says Stephan in a column released on Saturday. “Our mental and emotional health requires in-person love and kindness.”

However, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw urged caution in a Family Day tweet.

“Family means different things to different people,” tweeted Hinshaw.

She reminded Albertans that Family Day gatherings should only include members within their household or with two designated people if you live alone. Groups should be kept to 10 or fewer outside or in vitural gatherings.

Stephan said great healing can result from allowing immediate family members to serve and love each other in person “in ways they agree are appropriate for their family’s circumstances, nurturing their family’s resilience, their family’s individual and collective mental and emotional health.”

The MLA notes Canada’s Charters of Rights and Freedoms protects the “fundamental freedoms” of association and peaceful assembly.

He says while Albertans can gather outside “with freezing winter temperatures family gatherings continue to be starved. Many of our neighbours, and ourselves, have felt isolated and alone.”

Government intrusions into families’ fundamental freedoms can be harmful and “proprortionality” must be demonstrated, he added. “The cure cannot be worse than the disease.”

Stephan says that no Albertan under the age of 18 has died from COVID.

However, “many children — along with adults without serious health issues — are suffering profound economic, physical, social, mental and emotional health issues from health measures imposed upon them and their families.

“Government health measures — to the extent possible — leave families and their fundamental freedoms alone.”

Stephan has been vocal previously about his concern that restrictions meant to curb the spread of COVID can go too far.

Last November, he gave a speech in the Legislature applauding his government’s COVID-19 response, saying the decision to “reject an NDP social police state lockdown was the right one.”

The government did later introduce health measures that closed many businesses, restrictions which are now being eased again.

His views got him into hot water with the premier in January after he travelled to Arizona in the new year to visit family.

At the time he reinforced his support for individuals and families “having the freedom” to choose whether they travel or not, provided they are respectful of others in doing so.

Several days later, Stephan apologized for exercising “poor judgment” in making his trip to Arizona, where infection rates led the world at the time.

As a result, he resigned from the Treasury Board.

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