Council Also Calls Upon Provincial and Federal Governments to Create ‘Proof-Of-Vaccination Certificate Program
“As Regional Council, we have an obligation to provide a safe working environment for our staff. This policy not only goes a long way to make our work sites a safer place to be, it also sets an example for other employers to follow in the hopes of increasing vaccination rates. Vaccines safe lives and help avoid economic lockdowns – the motions passed(this August 26th) will help protect the health and safety of our community, while also playing a role in safeguarding Niagara’s economy” – Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley
News from Niagara, Ontario’s Regional Government
Posted August 27th, 2021 on Niagara At Large
A Brief Foreword Note from Doug Draper at Niagara At Large –
Watching the Niagara Region’s council meeting online this past August 26th was difficult enough and was absolutely no substitute for face-to-face meetings in the Region’s council chambers.
None of these online meetings are, and I believe that public engagement in democracy at the municipal level has been diminished because of it.
What was even more difficult to stomach at the August 26th meeting is that two Niagara Regional Councillors – Dave Bylsma and Mayor of West Lincoln, and Leanna Villella from Welland – voted against a mandatory vaccine requirement for Niagara Regional staff.
Further to that, those two councillors, along withWayne Fertich from Grimsby, Bob Gale from Niagara Falls, Marvin Junkin from Pelham (also Pelham’s mayor) and Gary Zalepa from Niagara-on-the-Lake, voted against a motion requiring the same mandatory vaccine policy for elected regional councillors.
Whether you agree with Bylsma’s and Villella’s position on a mandatory vaccination requirement or not, at least they were consistent. They voted against the requirement for both staff at the Region and regional councillor.
In the case of Zalepa, Gale and the rest of the naysayers, what is with voting in favour of a mandatory policy for staff but not for themselves? What sort of double standard is that, and why?
In the backdrop of all of this, everyday taxpaying resident of Niagara cannot even enter the Region’s headquarters and have not been able to personally attend any of the Region’s council meetings now for a year and a half.
I imagine that even when the day comes that citizens in Niagara can enter the Region’s headquarters for council and committee meetings or for any other regions, it is quite likely that they will have to show that they are fully vaccinated.
So what is it with those regional councillors who voted against a mandatory vaccine policy for themselves.
Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
Now here is the News Release from Niagara’s Regional Government –
Niagara, Ontario – At this (August 26th’s Niagara Regional Council) meeting, Niagara Regional Council voted to help protect staff, members of the public and the economy by directing the creation of a COVID-19 vaccination policy for staff, while also calling on the Provincial and Federal government to create a proof-of-vaccination certificate program.
With the arrival of the more contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, ensuring as many individuals as possible receive a vaccination is crucial. Current studies show that unvaccinated individuals are at the greatest risk of both becoming infected and spreading the virus, while also being 29 times more likely to be hospitalized with complications.
Slowing the spread of the virus is crucial as it also helps to lessen the chances of mutations, which can lead to new variants of concern.
The staff vaccination policy will require all Regional staff to provide proof that they have received both doses of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. Staff who cannot provide proof of full vaccination will be required to be tested regularly and provide those results.
Medical and human rights exemptions will be recognized and accommodated, but those staff will be required to regularly undergo testing under the new policy.
While staff are working on the finalizing the details, it is expected that the policy will come into effect by mid September, requiring staff compliance by prescribed timelines.
Ensuring Regional staff are vaccinated against COVID-19 not only contributes to a safer workplace, but is a critical protection for other members of the Niagara community. By ensuring Regional staff are vaccinated, it sets a positive example for others to follow as we work together to increase our vaccination rates and drive down infections.
In an additional demonstration of leadership, Council also voted to ensure the relevant parts of the staff policy will apply to members of council if they wish to attend in-person council meetings, conduct business at Regional facilities or attend official events in their capacity as a Councillor.
Later in the meeting, Regional Council passed a motion calling on the Provincial and Federal government to create a universal proof-of-vaccination certificate program to help residents easily prove their vaccination status. As more private businesses and public organizations announce their intention to make proof of vaccination a requirement to gain access to facilities, a province- and/or country-wide certificate program would provide and easy and convenient way for individuals to prove their current status.
Council’s motion comes on the heels of the Association of Local Public Health Agencies call to the province of Ontario to develop a province-wide vaccination certificate system. Ontario’s local Medical Officers of Health have collectively stated that a vaccine certificate would encourage higher rate of vaccination and ultimately contribute to helping to end the pandemic.
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