This past week has been a roller coaster ride for our community. The notable rise in COVID cases in this area, driven by new COVID strains, the Premier’s announcement of another shutdown for all of April, and the extremely unfortunate event that was hosted by the group, No More Lockdowns, at a local business, have all taken their toll.
When we welcomed in the year 2020, 16 months ago, no one could have quite imagined where we would be today.
As your Mayor, my first priority, alongside Council’s, is to protect the health of residents in our community, to support our local economy and ensure we get through this pandemic together.
So many residents have reached out over the past few days to share their significant concern about last week’s event organized by No More Lockdowns Canada. To convene an unlawful gathering at one of our cherished local businesses, that purposely violated public health protocols during a provincial State of Emergency, is extremely disappointing, and irresponsible.
As I stated the night of the event, I do not believe that what transpired at the South Branch Bistro in any way reflects the spirit or character of the people in North Grenville.
Events organized by this group are notorious for attracting a small cohort of disgruntled individuals from a variety of communities who reject the science behind public health. They seek to take advantage of vulnerable local businesses that do not see another way forward.
Their goal is to antagonize and divide communities like ours. I am determined to not let that happen in North Grenville.
I am sorry that there are those who think that this kind of event is a constructive response, but thankfully they are a very small minority. Overwhelmingly, our community has done an outstanding job adhering to public health guidelines during what has been a very long year.
It is imperative that we step up each and every day to support our local business community. No one would seek to operate a business under the unpredictable and chaotic circumstances of the last year. Government supports only go so far, and the constant pressures to adapt are labour and resource intensive. Many have drained their personal savings to keep going.
Throughout all of this, our local businesses are relying on customers like you and me to stick with them in these turbulent times, and to support their efforts to keep their employees and the public safe, and their operations viable.
But when public health violations occur, people must be held to account. Many have asked why the Ontario Provincial Police or our local Public Health Unit did not immediately shut down last week’s event while it was happening, given the danger it posed.
Due to the size of the gathering, and the intention of the organizers to sensationalize the event and attract more attention, our Municipal Bylaw officers, Public Health representatives and OPP office were on site to fully document what was transpiring, and to keep the peace. They did just that.
Council has been advised that the incident is actively under investigation, and that the results of the investigation will be shared the minute they are able to do so. Owing to the fact that the event violated provincial COVID orders, any actions taken are best led by those with provincial enforcement powers, the OPP. I am very confident they will move forward with the best interests of public health and safety in mind.
I want to thank our own municipal bylaw staff, The Leeds, Grenville & Lanark District Health Unit Public Health, as well as members of the OPP Grenville Detachment for their cool and calm approach, and for risking their own health given the number of unmasked participants.
Our community will not falter because of this one incident. We will not be defined by a small group of individuals who have put their own health and well-being in jeopardy and sought to compromise the health of others.
With the rise of COVID variants in this area, I am urging everyone to use as much caution as possible during the Stay at Home order. I recognize that it is sometimes difficult to follow public health guidelines perfectly, but please do your absolute best. This month is a critical test of our vigilance as a community, and our ability to keep others, and ourselves, safe.
Please register for a vaccine as soon as it is your turn. We have an outstanding local Assessment and Vaccination Centre in Kemptville, and I am actively working with our MPP Steve Clark, and the Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paula Stewart, to expedite the arrival of more vaccines. This will ensure that, in the long run, we can, in fact, resume some kind of normal.
I am very optimistic that there is light at the end of this very long tunnel – as long as we work together. Please stay kind, and do not lose hope in the coming weeks. We will get through this, and I am immensely proud of this community for their efforts.