Jonas J. Smith says it wasn't his job to scrutinize a petition that included duplicate signatures and the name of a white supremacist

    Jonas J. Smith attends a protest against the vaccine mandate on October 22 in downtown Whitehorse.

    Smith is now asking people to write to their MLA after the government responded to a petition he edited, calling for the vaccine mandate to be rescinded.

    Former federal candidate for the Yukon, Jonas J. Smith, is calling on people to write to their MLA to let them know how they feel after the government said they would not rescind the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in response to a petition asking for the abolishment of the policy.

     

    On Wednesday afternoon in the legislature, Premier Sandy Silver responded to the petition tabled by the Yukon Party at the beginning of the month. Silver said the petition has several duplicate signatures, signatures of residents outside of the Yukon, and it includes the name of a white supremacist who killed 51 people at a New Zealand Mosque in 2019.

     

    Smith edited a draft of the petition to make sure it met the standards of the standing orders of the legislative assembly. He also actively promoted it and gathered signatures. The former Yukon Party president told CHONfm today that all of the signatures were collected physically in the Yukon and that it wasn’t his job to scrutinize them.

     

    “I remember when I was in government and I did scrutinize signatures, there was a petition presented that Mr. Silver, when he was still in opposition, supported but it had the signatures of both Brad Pitt and Mickey Mouse,” said Smith.

     

    The petition caused quite the kerfuffle in the legislative assembly when it was presented on November 1. The legislature had to take a 15-minute recess just six minutes after it started to regain order when members of the public who showed up to witness the tabling, clashed with the house after they were told to wear masks by Deputy Speaker Annie Blake. Just before the recess, a man could be heard over the live radio broadcast aggressively asking how he could visit his family in Europe if he doesn’t have his shots.

     

    The public gallery erupted with applause when Watson Lake MLA Patti McLeod announced that there were over 2,300 signatures. Blake had to remind the gallery that clapping is not allowed.

     

    Premier Silver expressed frustration towards the people involved in the incident during his response to the petition on Wednesday.

     

    “This is very disappointing to see the Yukon Party embrace this group and their position. The events that day served to undermine our public health system, and the Yukon Party was only too happy to stand by that behaviour,” said Silver.

     

    Also on Wednesday, the premier announced at a morning press conference that government employees who don’t have their first shot by November 30 will be put on unpaid leave until they are vaccinated. They will have until January 30 to get their second.

     

    Smith called the policy “underhanded,” and said it could cause people to lose their jobs.

     

    “Yukoners have had every opportunity to be vaccinated against COVID-19, if they so chose, and if they haven’t done it yet, and are only going to it now because of the government’s recent announcement and the threats to their job, that is purely coercion in my mind and absolutely unacceptable and unethical,” said Smith.

     

    “Every day I receive dozens of messages from concerned Yukoners from across the political spectrum, both public servants as well as those in the private sector or people with children in recreational activities and sports for example, who are all very very concerned about how these mandates are going to disrupt our society and discriminate against Yukoners,” Smith added.

     

    In the legislature Wednesday afternoon, Silver went on to say that he respects Yukoner’s decision to sign the petition, “that’s democracy.” The premier also said the policy is all about protecting the territory.

     

    “I believe that we are doing what is right to keep Yukoners safe, and our government will continue to be guided by science and the recommendations of public health experts,” said Silver.

     

    In an interview with CHONfm last month, Silver said the vaccine mandate is for the greater good.

     

    “Everyone has the right to get vaccinated or not to get vaccinated, that’s your choice. But those choices come with ramifications. People talk about civil liberties. This is about civil liberties. The society we are in is mostly vaccinated and there are some that are refusing to get vaccinated and as a society, we as a government have to look at what keeps us safe,” said Silver.

     

    In a Facebook post this morning, Smith called Silver’s response a “sign of a desperate government, already drowning under the weight of the Hidden Valley child sexual abuse scandal.”

     

    Smith went on to say Silver’s liberals “would rather be remembered as the government that took healthy Yukoners’ jobs away during a pandemic and at the onset of winter.”

     

    Smith hopes if enough people contact their MLA, the government will consider other accommodations for workers who don’t want to get the vaccine and they won’t have to lose their jobs.

     

    Starting tomorrow new COVID-19 safety measures will be enforced under the Civil Emergency Measure Act. After three months of no masks, face coverings will once again mandatory, though many businesses have been requiring patrons to mask up since the state of emergency was announced on Monday night.

     

    Limits on gathering sizes, restrictions on gyms, personal services, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs will also take effect.

     

    The safety measures are set to be in place until December 3, though Silver says that timeline could be extended if things don’t get better.

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