Saskatoon metropolis council to debate COVID-19 vaccine mandate for metropolis employees, services

Saskatoon city council is set to discuss mandatory COVID-19 vaccines for city facilities and employees on Monday.

“I expect we’re going to have lots of questions about it and probably a fairly comprehensive debate too,” Ward 7 Coun. Mairin Loewen told CTV News.

Ward 10 Coun. Zach Jeffries has given a notice of motion for Monday’s city council meeting.

He wanted to implement a mandatory vaccine policy for all civic facilities and staff, similar to the University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) vaccine requirements announced earlier this month.

Starting Sept. 7, the U of S will require all staff, faculty and students to show proof of at least one dose of a World Health Organization approved COVID-19 vaccine before coming onto campus, with proof of a second dose required no later than Oct. 18.

People not vaccinated will be required to provide regular and frequent negative COVID-19 test results.

How the city would implement something like this is unclear at the moment, but Loewen said she supports the idea.

“We know that vaccination is one of the most critical paths to getting out of the pandemic. We are not at the level we need to be in Saskatoon or really in any part of the province with vaccination uptake, and so I think it’s appropriate that as a significant entity in the community, the City of Saskatoon protect its employees and residents,” she said.

Loewen added that while she understands there are a wide range of opinions, it’s important to listen to what public health experts are saying.

“The advice that we’re getting from public health officials is that we’re in a very concerning situation in Saskatoon. We need to do things differently if we want better public health outcomes. We need to get more people vaccinated and we need to protect the people who cannot become vaccinated.”

Ward 9 Coun. Bev Dubois said if she were to vote right now, she would go in favour of a mandatory vaccine policy and would be open to hear about a vaccine passport.

She said she’s been hearing from people in her ward with similar views.

“I had a call from an individual that works at the city and that is in my ward, pleading with me to help make vaccines mandatory, saying it’s becoming a difficult situation out there with the vaccinated and the unvaccinated … I mean, people are concerned and we all want to be healthy. We all want to be safe, and so that’s my priority.”

On Thursday, Saskatchewan reported two more deaths related to COVID-19 and 158 new cases. Of those cases, the majority were in Saskatoon at 27.

The motion comes as Mayor Charlie Clark calls for extra measures, such as vaccine passports, as the city deals with rising cases.

However, Ward 5 Coun. Randy Donauer said his preference is to have a province-wide policy.

“I think especially when you get into the big, tough issues like Charter arguments and people’s rights, I think the province has hundreds of doctors on staff, we have zero, and I think these type of broad sweeping decisions should be made by the province.”

Donauer said it’s also important to keep people who are not able to get vaccinated in mind, like kids under 12 years old and those who are immunocompromised, when making a decision.

“These are very serious issues and I understand why the province and all the different stakeholders are struggling with these decisions because they’re trying to balance the rights of individuals with the rights of the greater population to live in a safe environment and those are not easy things for us to do.”

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