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Municipal vaccine passport takes effect in Rankin Inlet

If you want to use municipal buildings in Rankin Inlet, you’ll need to be vaccinated.

If you want to use municipal buildings in Rankin Inlet, you’ll need to be vaccinated.

Hamlet council unanimously passed the proof-of-vaccination bylaw Oct. 25. It will apply to all municipal buildings in Rankin Inlet, from the arena to community hall, as of Nov. 30.

“When people go to enter the building, they’ll be asked to present proof of vaccination,” said Darren Flynn, senior administrative officer with the hamlet.

The hamlet will not be scanning anything or retaining any information, he added. Instead, vinyl bracelets will be available for vaccinated people to wear to show their proof of vaccination going forward.

“Then any subsequent time somebody goes to enter one of our buildings, all they have to do is flash that wristband,” said Flynn.

The bylaw covers municipal buildings only, not stores or private facilities. At the municipal office, unvaccinated people will still be permitted to enter and make payments or apply for permits.

“People will still have access to those services,” said Flynn, noting they would still be required to wear a mask.

He said there have been a couple of written submissions and comments on Facebook criticizing the decision.

“At the end of the day, council has chosen to take this step,” said Flynn.

One thing that did change on third reading of the bylaw was to make exceptions for people with immune deficiencies or those who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons.

Those people will have the option of writing directly to Flynn to request an exemption. They will be required to supply valid documentation showing they have a real medical condition that prevents them from getting vaccinated, said Flynn.

“That doesn’t mean that exemption will automatically be granted,” he said. “But it means that we will take it under consideration.”

He said it’s not a way out for people who are afraid of needles or making a stand on another level.

“We’re trying to protect people,” said Flynn, adding that the hamlet is also hoping to raise indoor capacity limits with this move.

“If we have a building of fully vaccinated people that are wearing masks, then we should be able to raise our limits.”

The community hall has a capacity limit of 410 people, but only 100 are allowed in right now. The new $30-million arena has 950 seats, but only 50 people are allowed in those currently.

“This is trying to get us towards a place where council can start increasing those numbers for our public buildings,” said Flynn, “and start getting people back to enjoying the things they want to enjoy in life and get on with life.”

When he spoke to Kivalliq News on Nov. 23, Flynn hinted there may be an announcement about capacity numbers soon, in consultation with the office of the Chief Public Health Officer.

The hamlets of Baker Lake and Chesterfield Inlet both told Kivalliq News that no similar bylaw was planned or active in their communities.

As for a territorial vaccine passport system, Danarae Sommerville, communications specialist with the Government of Nunavut, said that would require input and feedback from Minister of Health John Main.

“The Department of Health will discuss with the Minister of Health once the new cabinet is selected and the minister receives their portfolio,” stated Sommerville in an email before cabinet was appointed.