Orangeville council unanimously rescinds mandatory vaccine policy

January 27, 2023   ·   1 Comments

The Town of Orangeville’s mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy for staff, contractors and vendors, which includes firefighters, is no longer in effect.

Council voted unanimously to revoke the vaccine mandate during a packed meeting on Monday (Jan. 23) and revoked the policy for councillors, committee members and volunteers during their Jan. 9 meeting. However, Coun. Andy Macintosh suggested at the Jan. 9 meeting to maintain the vaccine mandate for firefighters until April. This motion was deferred to Monday’s meeting since Orangeville Fire Chief Ronald Morden wasn’t in attendance and councillors said they needed to hear from him before making a decision.

But before Monday’s meeting, Coun. Macintosh said he spoke with the chief, and they agreed to remove the policy instead of maintaining it.

“I’m making this motion in collaboration with our fire chief,” he said to council. “We’ve talked over the last two weeks, and even though fire [services] has a higher [COVID-19] exposure risk than most occupations, we still think this is the way to go, to revoke it, and to keep the policies consistent with other areas of the town.”

Coun. Macintosh said the fire chief’s request to maintain the policy stemmed from concerns about bringing the vaccine policy back if “things go south” with COVID-19. Coun. Macintosh assured the chief that they could enact a new policy in the future, and he was satisfied.

“Hopefully [a new policy is] not going to be needed, and that’s why the motion was to rescind it rather than suspend it. So that was kind of our reasoning behind it,” Coun. Macintosh noted.

A staff report presented four options to council concerning the vaccine mandate: suspend the policy, revoke it, continue with enforcement or amend it to require booster doses.

Orangeville council heard 14 delegations opposing the vaccine mandate for firefighters from a crowd of around 100 people.

While the first delegate, who shared his comments by telephone, again called councillors Nazis for having a vaccine mandate after first saying this at the Jan. 9 meeting in-person, the other 13 delegates were respectful and didn’t engage in name-calling.

Coun. Macintosh said the name-calling almost made him want to vote to keep the mandate, but he enjoyed hearing presentations from those who exhibited decorum.

“We get much more done when you speak politely,” he remarked.

Delegations From The Public

Mulmur resident and business owner in the Orangeville/Mono area, Johnny Yeaman, delegated at the Jan. 23 meeting and shared that while he’s fully vaccinated, he doesn’t support the town’s mandatory vaccination policy.

“I would just like it to be known by council and anyone else paying attention to this meeting that the belief of removing all mandates is just as strong with many of us that are vaccinated as well as not vaccinated,” noted Yeaman.

He explained that, like 215 other departments in Ontario, Orangeville Fire is a composite fire hall, using both full-time and volunteer staff. Most composite fire halls in the province do not have a vaccine mandate.

“The proposition of keeping Orangeville firefighters safe by having them all vaccinated, I also find slightly flawed. Orangeville Fire is often on calls with paramedics and police. This means that they’ll be working side by side with OPP officers and others that are actually not required to be vaccinated.”

Yeaman also pointed out that local fire services utilize mutual aid, where neighbouring departments are brought in during calls. Two of the main mutual aid partners, Shelburne and Grand Valley, never enacted a mandatory vaccine policy. This means vaccinated and unvaccinated firefighters are already working together when responding to emergencies.

Orangeville resident Peggy Bond, who has delegated several times in opposition to the town’s mandatory vaccine policy, spoke again at the Jan. 23 meeting. She thanked council for rescinding the policy for councillors, committee members and volunteers on Jan. 9.

“That indicates that you accept that these shots do not prevent transmission, they do not prevent illness and thus do not improve workplace safety. I hope that this also means that you recognize that these policies are discriminatory and violated the principles of informed consent by coercing some people to receive a medical intervention that they did not want,” Bond remarked.

“Absolutely no argument can be made today to justify maintaining this [remaining vaccine] policy in any form that can make biological, scientific sense. I, however, cannot discount the political science might not be used.”

Bond referenced comments made by Orangeville’s acting CAO Raymond Osmond that “we’re not out of the woods” regarding respiratory viruses circulating in the community on Jan. 9 when councillors discussed the idea of keeping the vaccine policy for fire services.

“I wanted to put forward to Mr. Osmond that we are no longer in a public health emergency. We are dealing with a variety of endemic respiratory viruses, just like we do every year in Ontario between November and March,” Bond said. “For 20 years, I’ve been doing it within direct patient care. Unfortunately, we do lose a few souls every year, depending on the severity of the season, but overall, we come out just fine every April. It’s time to stop with the fear messaging.”

Bond also noted  thatthe accepted infection fatality rate for people under 60 is less than 0.2 per cent (two in 1,000) and less than 0.5 per cent (five in 1,000) for people under 80, according to a recent peer-reviewed study by John P. A. Ioannidis. This is less than or equal to some flu strains.

Regarding outbursts from audience members at the last council meeting when Coun. Macintosh suggested keeping a vaccine mandate for firefighters, Bond said the unexpected addendum to maintain the policy rightfully caused people to become upset.

“We are an identifiable group that has been openly and unabashedly discriminated against for over two years. We and our families have lost jobs – you heard some of the stories tonight – lost homes, lost status, been excluded from participating fully in society, been shunned by friends and family, been ridiculed, called anti-science, granny killers, selfish, misogynist, and racists etc,” Bond remarked.

As a medical professional for over 20 years in direct patient care, Bond shared that the reason why she refuses to take the COVID-19 vaccine is because she is afraid of it.

She says for 30 years, scientists have tried to develop a coronavirus vaccine that actually worked and didn’t cause harm to no avail. She is now weary of the mRNA jabs for COVID-19.

“The new platform that is gene therapy, the molecular manipulation of mRNA and the use of polyethylene glycol – these are just some concerns to me. Too many unanswered questions and too many uncertainties,” Bond explained.

She also commented on the mental impacts of mandating vaccination against COVID-19.

“I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be forced to take something that you are afraid of, to keep your job and feed your family. The psychological harm is incalculable,” Bond stressed.

Allison Kennedy, whose partner became a firefighter 13 years ago, noted some of the mental health challenges that those who work in fire services face on the job. She shared that firefighters have mental health issues three times more often than the general public, die by suicide more than in the line of duty, and fatalities due to mental health have increased significantly over the past 15 years.

“I would urge the council to contemplate if the mental health pandemic within our fire service has cost the Town of Orangeville more money than the time lost due to COVID,” Kennedy said.

“During the last meeting, Councillor Macintosh expressed his concerns for firefighter safety twice. He first stated we have to look out for the safety of our firefighters, and second, he stated we are putting our firefighters at risk by removing this policy and Councillor Macintosh, you are correct,” she added. “I agree with you. The well-being of our firefighters should be a priority. And since we agree, should we not also consider that by implementing a policy as nuanced and divisive as this one, we potentially worsen the already vulnerable mental health of our servicemen and women.”

Kennedy said she’s heard from Orangeville firefighters firsthand about their worries surrounding the policy.

“On more than one occasion, I’ve had firefighters in my home, sitting at my table enjoying a coffee, expressing their concerns with regards to this mandatory vaccination policy. As of today, some Orangeville firefighters still worry a booster will be mandated through the town once again threatening their jobs,” Kennedy shared.

Moving forward, she said the vaccine policy should be revoked to alleviate added stress on current fire service members, and a committee focused on the well-being of local fire services in support of mental health should be established.

Orangeville resident and firefighter in Brampton, Steve Koolen said members of the local fire service who have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine told him they fear a future mandate for booster doses.

“Several have mentioned that morale has gotten way worse when the policy came in place and has not gotten any better,” Koolen remarked.

“One mentioned how he felt more unsafe with the policy because of four volunteer firefighters being fired than he did about catching COVID and at least a quarter of the full-time members put in letters that they’re getting the vaccine under duress of losing their jobs.”

Koolen noted there has been severe vaccine injuries and deaths since the rollout started, the jab doesn’t stop transmission and vaccinated people are still in hospitals dying.

While not a firefighter herself, Melanie Schwabe who delegated at the Jan. 23 meeting regarding the vaccine policy, shared that she worked as a nurse locally for 11 years. She was fired on Nov. 15, 2021, for failing to disclose her vaccination status against COVID-19.

“I had been a very passionate and dedicated nurse putting in 50- and 60-hour work weeks caring for seniors at a local long term care home. I also provided additional nursing services on my day off from floor nursing doing contract nursing work and long term care and clinics,” said Schwabe. “Walking you all through some personal experience may give you a better understanding of the mental, emotional and financial implications that this policy has placed on many individuals and will continue to have on Orangeville staff and fire personnel [if kept in place].”

She added, “I would not wish my experiences over the past year and a half on my worst enemy. The shame, the isolation and the exclusion from community settings such as restaurants, communal spaces, places of worship and extracurricular activities was devastating.”

At a time when staying connected to her community and career was imperative to her mental well-being, Schwabe said she and many others were left in the dark to fend for themselves because they chose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine. She said she was shammed and shunned by coworkers, who told her she didn’t deserve to keep her title as a nurse.

“The mental toll these losses created an irreversible damage to many,” she noted. “Emotionally, I still have guilt that comes with the terms in which I left the residence I cared for, for over 11 years, that became like family to me. I often wonder what they would have wanted if anyone would have actually taken the time to ask them before the termination started.”

The vaccine mandate’s financial impact has been significant, according to Schwabe.

 “I’ve depleted and relied heavily on my savings to pay the mortgage payments, bills and groceries. This, after also being denied any assistance from EI, losing my benefits and losing the ability to contribute to the pension I had. My spouse took on the stress and burden of covering the entire mortgage bills payments until I was mentally stable enough to go out and start searching for a minimum wage job,” Schwabe explained.

“As it stands today, I know a couple dozen local health care workers who are in the same boat as me who are either unemployed or have found minimum wage work in other fields, hoping to one day have the right to return to their beloved careers and passions, which they worked so hard for.”

She concluded, “Losing a career you love for making a different medical choice or being denied a job based on making a different medical choice should never be an option.”

A Toronto resident with 12,000 Twitter followers on his page @LionAdvocacy also delegated regarding the vaccine policy.

Daniel Freiheit said he’s an advocate for equitable policies relating to vaccine rollouts and wanted to express his opposition to the mandatory vaccine policy in Orangeville.

He noted that Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore, announced last February that COVID-19 vaccines weren’t working to stop transmission of the virus. Canada’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Theresa Tam, made a similar comment one month later.

“Based on these new developments, their view was that vaccine mandates and passports would have to be re-examined,” said Freiheit. “I correctly anticipated that the provincial government would drop their regulatory vaccine requirements for jobs in public venues, also known as the government vaccine passport system. But what I didn’t anticipate was that this message would not get communicated to the broader public.”

Freiheit also raised concerns about vaccine injuries being significantly higher with the mRNA jabs than other traditional vaccines and said it’s unethical to mandate something as a condition of employment when it could cause harm.

No delegates spoke in support of maintaining the town’s vaccine mandate.

“I’d like to thank everybody that had their comments today. I’ve never heard my name mentioned so much,” said Coun. Andy Macintosh in response to the several delegations. He told the Citizen, “The motion [to revoke the vaccine policy] was going to go through if nobody showed up, so I just wish we could have done the motion before, but these people wanted to be heard and it gives them a chance to express themselves, so it was good.”

Orangeville council’s next meeting is being held on Feb. 6.

Readers Comments (1)

  1. Graciela says:

    Thank you for your meticulous and well written account of events.


Please note: Comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.