The Hamlet of Rankin Inlet is considering a bylaw that would bar unvaccinated residents from entering municipal buildings.
If council passes the third and final reading of bylaw 326 on Oct. 25, all individuals wishing to enter community-owned buildings will need to provide proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid-19, effective Nov. 30.
The bylaw will remain in effect until it is repealed or until Nunavut’s Department of Health ends the territory’s public health emergency, states a hamlet news release.
“Every person who contravenes any provision of this bylaw shall be deemed to have committed an offence against this bylaw and shall be liable to a fine as outlined,” it states.
The penalties for first, second and subsequent offences are $250, $750 and $2,250, respectively.
According to the policy, many venues and events will be off-limits to the unvaccinated in Rankin Inlet.
These include the community hall, the arena or any hamlet building hosting a public gathering such as bingo nights, weddings or public meetings “regardless if the event is hamlet sponsored or a third party is sponsoring the event.”
Exceptions will be made only for unvaccinated residents to attend vaccination clinics in municipal buildings.
In addition, the unvaccinated will be allowed into municipal buildings to make payments and apply for permits, services and programs, though they’ll be required to wear a mask while inside.
Those who have not received vaccines due to health reasons will not be free from the new rules: “Persons exempted from vaccination due to auto-immune deficiencies, allergies or other conditions, should not be gathering in large crowds to start with,” it states. “And will not be exempted from this bylaw.”
Residents who want their Covid-19 vaccination certificates with QR codes can call public health in Rankin, said Darren Flynn, the community’s senior administrative officer (SAO).
“The QR codes are available in Nunavut,” he said. “I picked mine up the same day they came out. They’ll actually print it off for you, and you go pick it up later in the same day.”
The community is following new vaccine passport rules that many other Canadian cities have put in place to try and end the coronavirus pandemic, he said.
“I just got back from a trip to Winnipeg and you can’t go anywhere,” said Flynn. “You can’t even go to a food court in a mall, sit down, eat your lunch, unless you show proof of vaccination.”
Arviat is also proceeding with a possible third reading of almost an identical bylaw on Tuesday, he said, “This is fast becoming the norm across the country and in the long-term, it’s meant to protect the health and safety of our residents.”
“Council wants to put this into place in order to try to get things back to normal faster,” said Flynn who added the vaccine mandate could eventually allow the municipality to ease capacity limits in some buildings.
“Right now, as long as we have the current situation we have, we will never see (seating) limits on our buildings increased,” he said. “Our new arena has a seating capacity of 950 people. And it’s currently restricted to 50 people on the ice and 50 people in the stands.”
The capacity restrictions have been imposed by Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief public health officer (CPHO), he noted.
However, if the bylaw passes third reading, “at that point, council might then have some flexibility where it may be able to increase numbers and work with public health accordingly.”
Flynn noted council would not be “cavalier” with loosening restrictions if the bylaw is adopted.
“They’re not going to automatically open everything up to full capacity,” he said. “They’re going to take a measured approach.”
Flynn said he has received a few complaints about the municipality’s proposed vaccine mandate, “but for the most part, the discussion around town, as I’ve seen it, is mostly positive.
“People want to try to get back to having bigger assemblies, they want to be able to do things together.”