Anger, division over passports and mandatory shots

Sherry Stewart runs the Leaky Tank restaurant. Glenn Ogilvie file photo

Tara Jeffrey

Sherry Stewart says she’s had enough.

“I’m not complying,” the Leaky Tank restaurant owner said of Ontario’s vaccine certificate system set to take effect next week.

“I think it’s disgusting; I think it’s alarming… I think we’re being taken over by communism.”

The Aamjiwnaang First Nation truck stop and diner is one of numerous local businesses that announced on social media they intend to ignore Premier Doug Ford’s “vaccine passport” program.

Starting Sept. 22, proof of COVID-19 shots will be required to access many non-essential businesses including indoor restaurants, movie theatres, gyms, sports facilities and concert halls.

Vaccine certificates won’t be required for grocery stores, retail shopping, salons and barbershops, banks, places of worship, essential services, workplaces or patios and other outdoor spaces, the government said.

“If they can take control like that over our bodies, what other control are they going to take in the future?” asked Stewart. “This is a very slippery slope.”

Stewart said she doesn’t make staff wear masks at her restaurant, which is preparing to host a visit from PPC Leader Maxime Bernier on Wednesday.

And she believes the millions of people vaccinated against COVID-19 “have made a huge mistake.”

Meanwhile, Lambton’s acting medical officer of health is urging all local employers to have mandatory vaccine policies for staff.

Dr. Chris Greensmith said requiring workers to get shots is the best way to protect them and customers from COVID-19 and the Delta variant.

“We can do better,” said Greensmith, adding a 90% vaccination rate could avoid more lockdowns.

He urged Lambton County council to lead the way by requiring all staff to provide proof of vaccination, or, as an alternative, ask for accommodation and attend a vaccination education session.

Mike Gorgey, the health unit’s manager of health ppromotion, stressed that ignoring the new vaccine certificate rules will only “exacerbate the situation, and prolong the community’s economic pain.

“Requiring proof of vaccination in certain high-risk settings reduces the risk, and is an important step to encouraging all residents to get vaccinated which is critical in protecting our hospital capacity and supporting businesses to keep customers safe, stay open and minimize disruptions,” he added.

One Lambton County mayor has said she will defy the new certificate requirements.

“I will refuse the Ontario vaccine passport and will not patron any business or organization that will not welcome all my fellow Ontarians equally,” Warwick Township Mayor Jackie Rombouts posted on Twitter, saying it’s a question of personal freedom.

Rombouts also chairs a county council committee with oversight of Greensmith and local public health.

“I am prepared to accept any discrimination that will inevitably come my way as a result of this decision and will vehemently defend the rights of others to do the same.”

On Sept. 1, demonstrators took to Bluewater Health to protest the announcement, carrying signs with messages like ‘Vaccine Mandate = Medical Rape’ and ‘Fear the Government, Not the Virus.’ A gathering of like-minded individuals also took place at Mike Weir Park.

Three days later, the health unit issued a release urging anyone at the Mike Weir Park event to monitor for symptoms after a fellow protester tested positive for COVID-19.

As of Aug. 31, the City of Sarnia had received 2,153 public complaints and inquiries about COVID-19 rule violations, and bylaw enforcement had issued 13 charges.

“As with all of the provincial requirements that have been implemented since the beginning of the pandemic, any required enforcement efforts will be followed up, as required,” said Stacey Forfar, Sarnia’s general manager of community services.

On Friday, Sarnia joined a growing list and announced it will require all its employees, contractors, consultants, volunteers, and students to be fully vaccinated.

Against that backdrop are calls to resist mandatory vaccinations.

In May, the Leaky Tank was charged after allowing indoor dining during the province’s stay-at-home order — despite warnings from police — and fined $880 under the Reopening Ontario Act.

“I guess I’m not brainwashed like the rest of the world,” said Stewart.

“The military will have to drag me out of here. This is a hill I am willing to die on.”