Before the Dawson Creek city council meeting opened – a man was taken into custody at city hall for refusing to wear a mask inside.
Thursday saw more than a 100 people attend a meeting set by City of Dawson Creek official to address a pair of agenda items concerning city-owned facilities. While not on the agenda on hand, council agreed to have handful of people attend to present as delegations.
All expressed concern about mandatory vaccinations, proof of vaccination to attend city facilities and more.
Mayor Dale Bumstead attempted to clear up any confusion at the top of the meeting – that the City of Dawson Creek was not implementing vaccination and mask requirements in city facilities and more – it was the province.
“I think there is a level of expectation how the city will be dealing with these orders, so I thought it was important for people to understand the abilities and authority that the city has in relation to the provincial public health act,” said Bumstead to open the meeting.
CAO Blair Lekstrom broke it down in fewer words.
“We have to adhere to the law.”
“The alternative is closing down?” asked councillor Darcy Dober.
“I don’t want to speak for the province, but yes,” noted Lekstrom.
Lorne Weaver attended and spoke about having COVID already and this being better than a vaccination.
“For going in the arena - I’ve already had COVID-19 and that is better than any vaccination according to the science I don’t believe. Why is this hindering me coaching my son,” he asked, also wondering what city council was doing to stand up for Dawson Creek.
Bumstead repeated the notion that the city must follow the community charter and these mandates are provincial, not municipal and that the city had to follow them and their enforcement.
“The options we have – we can’t ignore any part of the order, we either accept them or don’t open the facilities. And that is the most frustrating part. For us, our own individual opinions – we adhere to the community charter. It is frustrating, we get it, but the only decision council can make is to not open.”
Weaver asked city council about school rules this September - also a provincial purview.
"This is outside our bailiwick,” said Bumstead.
Councillor Jerimy Adam Earl noted that municipal governments were not different than the provincial government - rather somewhat of an extension.
“We are not a different government –we are a subsidiary of the provincial government, providing services they do not want to. We can push back with concerns; but this is completely within them,” he said.
Michelle Pohl spoke to city council and said it was up to individual choice.
“I believe bodies are made to protect themselves. This is a mandated vaccine – why are we being forced that I’ve been told doesn’t prevent you from getting or giving COVID. It is my rights, my body and if we are being forced – this is me signing over freedoms. When does this stop,” asked Pohl, comparing vaccination to the fleeing of her relatives from Germany in the 1930s.
“Are you willing to forfeit your life to some lady in Vancouver,” Pohl asked
“The expectation that will can ignore or not apply only some of these, or pick and choose, does not exist for us,” repeated Bumstead.
“We hear the frustration about the mandates, however we operate under the Charter of British Columbia we cannot direct people to break the law,” he added.
“Everybody out there is frustrated big time,” noted Pohl, suggesting that people with masks and those without could be segregated at city facilities.
“We can’t deviate from them, that’s the point,” repeated Bumstead.
“I think there is a way around this,” suggested Pohl.
Business owner Tygh Lardner noted no business could withstand losing 50 percent of their business clientele. Lardner was looking for a feel about what could happen if businesses do not follow the provincial mandates.
“We are being asked to be the enforcers and we are put in a tough spot. I just can’t do it if I want to see my business survive,” he said. “I’m here to say please hear our voice. We are contributing to the business community.”
Councillor Paul Gevatkoff operate them in compliance with public health orders.
“General consensus is that they would like Mayor and Council to take a stand. These, this is an individual cause,” he said.
“Some support, some may not. Council is not a lobby group,” he added.
“Mayor and council here to operate business of the city. Streets, facilities, on behalf of taxpayers. That is who funds this. Taxpayers, some may be supportive of this cause, some of them may not be. Mayor and council; I do not feel should be acting as a lobby group for one particular side,” said Gevatkoff.
“I think we should pass on the concerns, and they have been passed on. The province has heard the concerns and we can pass on this presentation today,” he said. “To me there are people who are vaccinated and want to use the facilities, and they have concerns of mixing with people who are unvaccinated. We have to realize what our role is. Operate the facilities, comply with the rules, which are in effect laws, and I don’t think the city has any authority to do anything but comply.”
"The private sector can choose to do what they want. What would happen if the arena did not follow,” asked councillor Darcy Dober.
“It is not something that I’ve experienced in my 30 years. I would expect they would come in, fine you, and shut your facility down. Any transfer payments that would be coming – could be a big stick they'd use,” suggested Lekstrom.
“I’m pretty confident in saying if a municipality went against the community charter, we would be shut down very quickly.”
Earl compared any current city facility to the city facility already shuttered by the province of BC – Rotary Lake.
“Rotary Lake – unsafe and shutdown. The point I’m trying to drive home is this is in the province’s purview.”
Check the hour and 45 minutes presentation here LINK
Up next on this file - conversations with those outside city hall rallying.