For those not paying close attention to the inside baseball at the Chilliwack Board of Education this week, it’s confusing at best, painful at worst.
Most people, luckily, missed it all.
What transpired was prompted by inaction from Victoria regarding vaccine mandates for teachers, staff and other adults in B.C. schools.
While many parents, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), and the B.C. School Trustees Association supported the idea of vaccine mandates, Premier John Horgan’s government tossed the potato it deemed too hot to touch.
That meant that B.C.’s 60 school district trustees are left to scramble, to decide themselves what to do in a piecemeal fashion. School boards were essentially ordered to: do it or don’t do it.
One by one some boards, including Vancouver, Surrey and Abbotsford, all concluded based on consultation with the health authorities, that they wouldn’t go there.
A majority of parents seem to think they should have. The Chilliwack District Parents Advisory Council told the school district that it should indeed order the mandate. Unsurprisingly to most observers, however, the Chilliwack school board followed the lead of big boards in Vancouver and Surrey, and did not.
As many as 95 per cent of teachers are fully vaccinated, experts say the transmission in schools is not widespread, and with many kids over 12 being vaccinated and not suffering serious consequences, the story might be over with this decision to not mandate vaccinations.
Even the anti-vaccination school trustees got their way, right?
But “the three” as I’ll refer to them, unified as they are, trustees Barry Neufeld, Heather Maahs, and Darrell Furgason, came up with a rationale for not issuing a vaccine mandate so outside the realm of rationality that some say they should be ignored and The Progress should not report on it. I disagree, as it’s unfair to pretend these trustees don’t exist.
One by one, the three emailed me a list of five reasons why the board rejected the vaccine mandate, reasons that are in fact not part of the board’s official statement, and are in fact more familiar to those keen on conspiracy theories and the dark corners of anti-vaccination on the internet.
Former Chilliwack school district assistant superintendent Janet Hall even Tweeted about their five reasons circumventing the official board response: “It is evident they don’t understand what being a governance board entails. Well-functioning boards don’t ‘break ranks.’”
Among the reasons from “the three”: “A vaccine mandate could promote discrimination against unvaccinated employees.”
They also said they reject a vaccine mandate “that would see union members and excluded staff receive a vaccination against their will.”
Wait. No one is being ordered to have a vaccination at all, let alone against their will. If a mandate was in place (and it is not), any adult could decide against vaccination. They just would have to stay away from schools. Simple.
But “the three” got even more dramatic, from positing that it’s a breach of privacy law to suggesting it’s a violation of the charter, which is so far legal speculative fiction.
Then the most ludicrous of all, “This board may be subject to legal action for any vaccine injuries or death resulting from mandated or coerced vaccinations.”
What vaccine deaths? What coercions? These vaccines have been proven to be safe and effective by medical health officials and health governing bodies across North America.
These three trustees continue to sow division and contempt of the rules of law, board governance, and of civility in the community. Fomenting fear because of ideological or religious opposition to safe health procedures has blinded them even beyond the anti-LGBTQ rhetoric that got these trustees in trouble in the first place.
Some say it’s time for Education Minister Jennifer Whiteside to fire the whole board, the only remedy possible even when bad behaviour is coming from a minority of trustees. Move on and start fresh after next October’s municipal election.
But some think that’s exactly what these three want, and they are sabotaging the board to that end.
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