The community and council need to see all sides of the debate when it comes to COVID-19 vaccinations and restrictive measures, says one city councillor, and to not do so would be at our own ‘peril.’
Rik Logtenberg spoke at the end of the April 19 council meeting about his time attending a few meetings with people from anti-vaccine mandate community in Nelson.
He wanted to get an updated read on how that community was doing, and also to get a better sense of what they wanted from their council.
The first takeaway was that there were quite a few people, certainly more than he expected, in the city itself involved in the anti-vax community.
“When you look at the protests and the rallies it is easy to assume that the people come from all over the region, which might be true, but there is a big contingent from right in the city itself,” he said. “One of the things we should consider as councillors, or maybe at the council table itself, is to do a little more listening to this community.”
People are not being heard because, fundamentally, they are at deep odds with the prevailing view.
“When you really believe something and then that belief is reinforced by your community, it really manifests itself in your world and that’s when the conflicts are starting to come,” Logtenberg said. “The necessary corrective to that is listening.”
And that means listening on another view on the vaccine, he said.
“Some of the fear around the vaccines — and we have probably all heard this or felt this — is based in an alternative health world view in which your choice is the determinate of health,” Logtenberg said. “It is the choices you make, whether it be what you eat, or even how you see the world.
“So if you are reacting to the world through fear that manifests as fear, not necessarily a wrong idea in any way, but again, if you believe on it without the dialogue of people that maybe have a different or alternative view point, it hardens.
“And, again, I just think that we lose connection. If we don’t (listen), it is at our own peril as a community, as much as a council.”
In March Kootenay Freedom members appeared in city council chambers and petitioned the city to speak for the people on the fringe. The message was consistent, with people asking for the elected municipal officials to speak up and against the mandates handed down by the public health officers.
Brian McLachlan, co-chair of Kootenay Freedom — the group who have protested and gathered consistently outside City Hall since the mandates began last year — said the group had 2,000 members, a “significant amount of the voting population in Nelson.”
But the people of that group — unvaccinated — have been hit hard by the restrictions leveled by the provincial public health officer.
“We have lost our jobs. We are unable to go to restaurants, movie theatres and are unable to visit our loved ones in care homes,” he said at the time. “We are, in some cases, unable to receive medical treatment.
“Our overall participation in society has been severely limited for making a choice not to receive an experimental drug. A drug that has not been properly tested, or that has only been allowed because we are under the Emergency Act.”
The requirement to wear masks in public spaces has lifted, as has the vaccine passport, but people who have chosen not to vaccinate are still suffering, he said.
“Many of us are still required to take this drug in order to be employed,” he said. “We don’t have our jobs back and it is now up to individual businesses to choose to discriminate or not.”
He said the provincial and federal government has overstepped its authority and trampled all over the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by implementing the mandates.
“It is intimidation and not founded in constitutional law. Masks clearly have no effect other than to show how compliant we Canadians are,” he said.
Kevin Shaw said Kootenay Freedom wanted to engage in a respectful discussion that did not resort to name calling or utilize censorship.
“We want to educate yourselves on not just the corporate narrative, but reach out and see what’s happening in your community,” he said. “Understand that these mandates are hurting way more people than they are helping. There is a lot more than a virus at issue here.”