City of Vancouver staff must be vaccinated — but not councillors

Fully vaccinated council says legal red tape makes it complicated, but other B.C. cities are considering policies that include both staff and politicians.

Vancouver Sun 4 minute read October 20, 2021

While the City of Vancouver is telling all staff to get vaccinated by Dec. 6, elected officials are not included in the order.

On Tuesday, city councillors insisted there is no double standard.

Coun. Pete Fry said a vaccination mandate would be a “moot point” as all members of council have voluntarily disclosed that they are fully vaccinated. “We could consider a motion, but that seems unnecessary.”

Instead, council issued a public statement explaining all council members are vaccinated and support vaccination.

“All members of council want to assure members of the public that they are voluntarily following the intent of the policy,” said the statement.

Coun. Jean Swanson blamed a “legal glitch” for the discrepancy. “I certainly think that if staff has to be, council should be as well,” she said.

In a statement, the City of Vancouver said the vaccination policy does not apply to elected officials as there are different legal considerations. “If city councillors, or park board commissioners, wished to impose such a policy upon themselves, the city believes that it is better for them to approve and adopt their own policy.”

At least two other Metro Vancouver municipalities are considering just that.

A vaccine mandate for city staff is under “active consideration” in the City of Burnaby, said spokesman Chris Bryan. “If we do pursue a mandatory vaccination policy, it would apply to members of city council as well.”

Richmond Mayor Malcolm Brodie said his council will consider the matter at its meeting Monday after discussing it at a closed committee meeting earlier this week. He said he personally supports a vaccine order that encompasses both staff and elected officials. “I don’t see any reason why mayor and council would be any different.”

In Surrey, staff are assessing the merits of a mandatory vaccination policy, said Jeff Arason, director of strategic initiatives and corporate reports. A voluntary staff survey done in September found that 95 per cent of staff are fully vaccinated or had received one dose.

Coun. Linda Annis told Postmedia she would support a policy that covers both staff and council.

But at least one Metro Vancouver city councillor is speaking out against mandatory vaccine policies.

Pitt Meadows Coun. Anena Simpson called vaccination requirements “plain wrong.”

Since making her views known at a recent council meeting, she said she’s been “inundated” with calls, including one from a single mom with a young child who is afraid of losing her job and a business owner who doesn’t want to be boycotted.

“The way this group of people is being treated is terrible,” she said. “They’re being villainized and dehumanized. In times of fear, people are looking for a scapegoat and they’ll use it to justify anything. I’m gravely concerned.”

Simpson said people are being coerced into putting something into their bodies by fear that they’ll lose their livelihoods.

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In a statement following Monday’s announcement, Vancouver city manager Paul Mochrie said the vaccination policy will offer exemptions for people with a “protected legal ground,” such as for medical or other grounds under the B.C. Human Rights Code.

The provincial health officer has already made it mandatory for hospital or long-term care facility workers to be fully vaccinated, but Dr. Bonnie Henry does not have the power to make orders in non-health workplaces.

However, at her suggestion, B.C. Hydro has mandated vaccination for all its workers at the Site C dam project, while B.C. Ferries will require it for workers, but not passengers.

The City of Vancouver’s announcement, the first for a municipality in B.C., is in alignment with rules already announced for federal and provincial workers.

Vancouver police, while paid by the city come under the Vancouver police board, so are not included in the mandate. However, the city order does apply to park board staff.

VPD spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin said the department is aware of the “current climate” and is “working on our policy.”

With Postmedia files

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