Rankin Inlet has an old-fashioned standoff on its hands: on one side, the hamlet council, committed to the enforcement of its vaccine passport bylaw; on the other, the district education authority, committed to its philosophy of unqualified school access.
In the middle are normal people who just want to use the Simon Alaittuq School (SAS) gym for volleyball and soccer.
Both sides blame the other for suspension of the hamlet’s evening gym programming at the school, and the hamlet council particularly wants to make sure the public knows whose fault it is.
Because the evening programming is a hamlet initiative, the council’s vaccine passport bylaw applies; and because the school is the DEA’s jurisdiction, the DEA wants to set the terms of its use.
Both sides are right in their convictions, and somehow both wrong at the same time, as the end result is not positive for basically anyone.
Thankfully, there’s something of a clumsy resolution: gym use at SAS can continue – you just have to book sessions individually, as the hamlet’s programming is suspended.
Both sides are rather agreeable on their own. The hamlet council is saying this is what our bylaw states, and we’re going to enforce our bylaw – that’s the point of the bylaw. The DEA is saying we don’t like this bylaw, and we won’t let you run a program that enforces it on our property.
If the hamlet bowed down to the DEA, that would set a precedent that the local government could be bullied out of its own bylaws if you hold a strong enough ultimatum over its head.
And if the DEA succumbed to the hamlet’s direction, they’d just be another board in a long list of meek public bodies who will do as they’re told, even if it goes against their personal beliefs.
That’s ignoring everything about what the vaccine passport bylaw actually is and the increasingly obvious absurdity of it.
The bylaw itself seems unwieldy for a hamlet to enforce. Fewer than half the times I’ve visited municipal facilities have I been asked to show proof of vaccination. One of those times was when picking up – not staying to eat – a free Valentine’s Day dinner from Iglu Donairs, an initiative put on by the food bank, about the last organization in a community you would expect to have to enforce discriminatory policies.
The vast majority of jurisdictions in Canada are now removing proof-of-vaccination rules. The internet might be slower in Nunavut, but it doesn’t mean we get news that’s six months old.
The clear consensus emerging is that domestic vaccine passports serve little positive purpose, and likely a negative one for the social effects and enforcement burden they bring.
The vaccine passport bylaw’s days look numbered as council is eyeing an April change of heart. But Covid has been unpredictable, so making any bets too early could be naïve.
But the moral panic that brought these policies to bear has subsided, as the news cycle changes to Ukraine, where every Russian we know is now getting the side eye.
It would almost surely be more beneficial from a public-health standpoint for the hamlet to mandate everyone spend an hour at the SAS gym program per week than to enforce the vaccine passport. Besides age, obesity is the number one risk factor increasing the odds of severe Covid cases and death.
But I kind of like living in a world where politicians don’t have their fingers in my life, and I want that world back.