NORTH BATTLEFORD - Proof of vaccination and negative test requirements in North Battleford facilities remains in effect.
That is the case following Monday’s council meeting when a motion by Councillor Kelli Hawtin to rescind the measures was rejected by the rest of council.
It was the latest attempt to overturn the measures that took effect Nov. 30. Those call for proof of vaccination or proof of negative test result within 72 hours at six city-owned facilities: NationsWEST Field House, Northland Power Curling Centre, Dekker Centre for the Performing Arts, Don Ross Centre, Battlefords Co-op Aquatic Centre and Access Communications Centre.
The votes on the proof of vax measures had been razor-thin at the Nov. 8 meeting and again on Nov. 22. But there was far less enthusiasm for Hawtin’s motion this time, as council voted 6-1 to defeat it.
In bringing the notice of motion to Monday’s meeting, Hawtin again expressed her continued concerns with the measures, citing the divisions created within the community.
“The message I’m getting from those who are vaccinated and those who are not is that these municipal measures are unnecessary, they’re an overstep,” said Hawtin.
But Hawtin’s motion ran into trouble right from the start. Councillor Kent Lindgren, a staunch supporter of the proof-of-vax measures, immediately called for her motion to be ruled out of order.
He noted the issue had already been debated and defeated, and objected to motions in the same spirit and wording being “brought back repeatedly every meeting.”
In the end, Hawtin’s motion was ruled in order and went to a vote. But it was clear from the discussion that there was little enthusiasm from anyone else on council to go forward with it.
Councillor Bill Ironstand remained staunchly in favour of keeping the measures, saying proof-of-vax policies have allowed leisure facilities to reopen.
“Kids are playing hockey, they are enjoying themselves they are having their mental health,” said Ironstand. “Kids are swimming, they’re going back to the swimming pool.”
Ironstand pointed to several letters of support he had received.
However, Ironstand also admitted to being on the receiving end of opposition. He said he has been called a “Nazi” and has received videos from opponents. He characterized them as being in the minority.
“People ask me why I’m so passionate about this. I know we are doing the right thing to help save lives.”
Ironstand also noted the threat from COVID-19 had not gone away. He pointed out that the Dec. 4 study of North Battleford wastewater had showed an increase in the virus load of 100 per cent, as well as a 155.5 per cent increase in the Delta variant.
Others around the council table raised concerns about the impact of the Christmas and holiday season, as well as a new concern: the highly-transmissible Omicron variant that was identified since the Nov. 22 meeting.
Councillor Len Taylor noted other cities in Ontario are imposing measures with Omicron increasing in there.
“They want to get ahead of it,” said Taylor. He called the increase in the wastewater cited by Ironstand as an “indication of things to come.”
“If you’re not ahead of the virus, the virus will outpace you,” said Taylor.
Mayor David Gillan, who previously shared Hawtin’s concerns regarding youth access to recreation facilities and voted against the restrictions at the previous two meetings, said he couldn’t support Hawtin’s motion anymore because of new facts that had come out.
He noted that the Nov. 22 vote, where council decided to exempt those 18 and under from the proof-of-vax requirements, “went a long way” with him. But Gillan also pointed to Omicron as an issue, as well as concerns about the Christmas and New Year season.
“I see risk on the horizon,” said Gillan.
On a related note, council also considered administration’s request to provide security to a maximum of $50,000 at City of North Battleford-operated recreational facilities, to verify vaccination status at points of entry. This amount will come out of the city’s COVID-19 emergency relief funds, and council voted in favour.