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Kootenay Freedom delivers message and ask of council during public meeting

Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
By Timothy Schafer Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
March 28th, 2022

The flag of Kootenay Freedom flew in city council chambers during its latest meeting as people stepped up and petitioned the city to speak for the people on the fringe.

Council chambers in City Hall were filled to capacity on March 22 for the committee-of-the-whole meeting, with several people in attendance vying for the chance to speak to council during the public participation section of the meeting.

The message was consistent throughout the 15-minute period, with four people asking for the elected municipal officials to speak up and against the mandates handed down by the public health officers.

Lindy Flynn, who spoke last in the evening, summed up the intent of the speakers.

“I don’t understand, because it doesn’t seem to me that what’s been happening is legal and I don’t understand why nobody is raising that issue?” she asked.

She felt the senior levels of government had really overreached with the mandates handed down across the province and across Canada, but all local governments held the same tune that they did not have answers to the restrictions.

“So who do you go to if you don’t think what is happening is right?” Flynn said. “So I’m just asking you, please look into this. You are our elected officials, you are the people we are turning to for this.”

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. “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.”

He pointed to the latest government statistics from the B.C. Centre for Disease Control that shows 33 per cent of hospitalizations are un-vaccinated, and only 26 per cent of deaths are unvaccinated.

The requirement to wear masks in public spaces has lifted, vaccine passports are due to be lifted on April 8, he added.

“It’s all over, right? Wrong. 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.

But before he could finish, McLachlan’s time to speak (set at three minutes under city bylaw) had ended and he gave way to Robin Flynn. She began by saying her prior letter to council had not been acknowledged.

She noted she had called every office of governance and received the same answer: ‘This topic of mandates, we don’t have jurisdiction, it’s the Ministry of Health. We just have to follow orders.’

“So I come tonight to remind each of us that at a municipal, provincial and federal level, including the Ministry of Health, none of these levels of government can grant any man or woman the right of bodily integrity, the right to work or earn a living, the right to decide for our children or to be with our families or dying loved ones, the right to gather and worship, the right to travel our land and to enter and leave this country,” she said.

“Civil government exists to protect these pre-political and fundamental freedoms, not to bestow and remove them as if it can function in the place of divine intelligence or whatever name you call God.

“As elected leaders and public servants in this community your role is not just to follow orders from the Ministry of Health, it is to advocate on behalf of all people, especially fringe minorities.”

There had been numerous examples in the West Kootenay of following orders with disastrous effects — with the Sinixt, Sons of Freedom.

“I would ask this council, from my heart, to just please hold a special council to hear the true extent of harm these mandates have inflicted upon our community,” she asked.

At that point Robin was informed by Mayor John Dooley — who chaired the meeting — that she was out of time, so she asked how and when could there be extra time to voice her request.

“You can write to our corporate officer,” Dooley replied.

“I wrote a previous letter and there was no acknowledgement, how will there be an acknowledgement in the future?” Robin asked.

“There will be an acknowledgement, yes,” Dooley said.

Kevin Shaw sat down next to finish McLachlan’s message. He said Kootenay Freedom wanted to engage in a respectful discussion that does 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.”

No council discussion ensued after the public time was over, nor was a motion made to refer any questions or concerns to a future business meeting of council.

The committee-of-the-whole meeting public time is not designed for debate of questions or matters brought to council, but rather food for thought to inform and consider for later council decisions.

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