While the Chilliwack Board of Education will not issue a vaccine mandate for teachers and other adults in schools, there is serious disagreement among trustees as to the reasons.
In an official statement issued Monday (Nov. 8), board vice-chair Trustee Jared Mumford said that after an evaluation process involving data shared by Fraser Health and Vancouver Coastal Health medical officers with superintendents and board chairs, it was decided that a vaccination mandate was not necessary in school settings.
Among the reasons are that 94 per cent of teachers are fully vaccinated, and schools are not considered high-risk settings for COVID transmission.
“The advice from the Fraser Health and Coastal Health Medical Officers is that a vaccine mandate for staff is not likely to significantly reduce the comparative risk in schools,” the statement read in part.
“The medical health officers do not believe a vaccine mandate is necessary for schools to operate safely and therefore do not support a vaccine mandate in schools.”
The Chilliwack board’s decision is just the latest in a series of decisions about vaccine mandates forced to be made by individual school districts when the province decided to offload that responsibility.
Many, including the union representing teachers, have said the decision should have been made at the provincial level. Before the Nov. 3 meeting where trustees decided against the mandate, the Chilliwack District Parents Advisory Council (DPAC) asked for just such a mandate to be implemented.
The full statement issued by the school district is posted on the district’s website.
But confusing matters is that half an hour before the statement was sent out by superintendent Rohan Arul-pragasam, Trustee Barry Neufeld sent out a very different statement.
And 10 minutes after that, Trustee Darrell Furgason sent out one identical to Neufeld’s, and 10 minutes after that, Trustee Heather Maahs did the same.
In their statement, Neufeld, Furgason and Maahs listed five reasons why the board rejects a vaccine mandate for employees.
Among the reasons listed were that a mandate “could promote discrimination against unvaccinated employees;” that “collecting and tracking proof of vaccination may be a breach of privacy law” and a mandate “would put in question the rights of district employees under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms;” and that “This board may be subject to legal action for any vaccine injuries or death resulting from mandated or coerced vaccinations.”
(See below for full statement.)
It should be noted here that all the COVID-19 vaccinations used in Canada have been through rigorous scientific testing, not to mention real world case studies at this point, and experts have concluded they are safe and effective.
Asked what to make of the statement from the three trustees, Maahs responded.
“This motion was moved and passed by the Chilliwack Board of Education on Nov. 3, 2021,” she said via email. “It is what it is.”
Vice-chair Mumford was also asked what the public should make of the statement from the three trustees that was so different from the official statement.
“The communique from the superintendent is the official statement to the community regarding a vaccine policy in our district, approved by the Board of Education,” Mumford said.
“I cannot comment on the statements you have received from individual trustees, as that information is in-camera.”
Full statement sent via email to The Progress by Trustees Neufeld, Furgason and Maahs, but not considered a statement on behalf of the Chilliwack School Board:
That the Chilliwack School Board reject any vaccine mandate or vaccine policy for all employees in the district, and that the following rationale for this decision be posted on the district website and sent as a press release to the media.
The Board of Education rejects any vaccine mandate or vaccine policy for staff or teachers in School District 33 (Chilliwack) for the following reasons:
1) A vaccine mandate could promote discrimination against unvaccinated employees. This runs contrary to district aims for professional, respectful, and supportive relations with all our district partners & employees.
2) The Board rejects implementing a vaccine mandate that would see union members and excluded staff receive a vaccination against their will. As “Partners in Education” this Board values the contribution towards student achievement that union members and excluded staff make in the district.
3) Collecting and tracking proof of vaccination may be a breach of privacy law. A vaccine mandate would put in question the rights of District employees under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, informed consent and medical autonomy. This Board supports the freedom of our employees, as Canadian citizens, to not be forced to take vaccinations which they wish not to take.
4) This Board may be subject to legal action for any vaccine injuries or death resulting from mandated or coerced vaccinations.
5) The Board values ALL our staff equally, and is unwilling to implement a mandate that will cause any staff member to leave their employment unnecessarily and against their will. We do not want to create division, undermine unity, and compromise student achievement. This Board is committed to stand together with all employees to create an educational system that is safe, supportive, inclusive, and successful in achieving our district aim of high student achievement.
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