Sarnia council votes in favour of vaccine mandate

Sarnia City Hall. (Photo by SL Chamber of Commerce)

All members of Sarnia city council and its committee appointees are being asked to provide proof of double vaccination against COVID-19 by the end of October.

Council voted in favour of the direction in a 5-3 recorded vote Monday.

Councillor Brian White, who said that he’s had both shots, admitted the situation was unique.

“We’re talking about an elected body here,” said White. “We are not employees, however, the city has implemented a mandatory vaccine policy. So, as such, I will stand in solidarity with the staff who’ve been asked to do the very same.”

White also encouraged all council and committee members to continue to work together online, so no one was centered out.

“I will vote in favour of the motion, out of respect to those employees. But, I would also expect that if we don’t have 100 per cent vaccination within our body, then we would not proceed to any in-person meetings, out of respect to those who choose not to get the vaccine.”

Councillor Terry Burrell said he’s double vaccinated and is “more than willing” to show the proof, but he doesn’t want to leave a copy of the documentation with the city.

“Then, that would become part of the city’s records, and I think my own private medical records do not belong in the city’s records.”

Councillor Mike Stark, who put forth the motion for consideration, confirmed the city would not keep the documents on record and said any medical and human rights exemptions will be accommodated.

Councillor Bill Dennis voted against the motion and said while he “happily made the choice to get fully vaccinated” it was his choice.

“Although I encourage others to get vaccinated, I do not wish to demonize or shame anyone who holds a different opinion, or chooses to make a different choice than I have made with respect to a personal medical decision,” said Dennis.

He reiterated that councillors are elected by the people and are not employees.

“I firmly do not believe it is our right to forbid in-person participation at meetings of an unvaccinated councillor who has been duly elected by citizens. Instead, let us handle it the same way we handle our attendance at the grocery store. Let’s put in place, and adhere to, all appropriate safety protocols.”

Councillor Margaret Bird, who did not disclose her vaccination status, described the motion as “bullying, harassing and discriminatory.”

“I know that I definitely will not be supporting this unconstitutional, divisive, and unethical motion,” said Bird.

Councillor Dave Boushy, stated while he’s double vaccinated, they needed “to be fair to Margaret.”

“She was elected by the people and it’s not fair to impose anything on her at all,” said Boushy.

Boushy asked Stark to “cool it” and wait for the city’s lawyers to return to council with advice on next steps.

Councillor Nathan Colquhoun was absent from that part of the meeting and did not vote.

Members failing to provide proof of vaccination by October 31 will be forbidden from participating at in-person meetings, but still able to participate in meetings virtually.

Sarnia’s Chief Administrative Officer Chris Carter released details of a mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy Friday.

It requires all City of Sarnia employees, contractors, consultants, volunteers and students to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.