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'I'm ashamed to be represented by your leadership'

A delegation during MD of Bonnyville council meeting allowed a resident to voice their frustrations of seeing council support local restaurants that opened their dine-in areas against provincial regulations in January
local news

BONNYVILLE - “You showed your community blatant disregard for the law and regulations helping to keep us safe.”  

Sarah Lavoie voiced her concerns and anger to MD of Bonnyville council of their support of local restaurants who defied provincial orders to open their dine-in areas in late January, before restrictions were relaxed this month.  

“As a resident of the MD of Bonnyville, I’m ashamed to be represented by your leadership. You have shown that my health and the health of my family, friends, and fellow community members aren’t your priority,” she said during council’s Feb. 10 meeting.  

Lavoie sent a letter to the municipality in response to Reeve Greg Sawchuk having lunch at the Lakeland Grill on Jan. 28, when restaurants across the province opened their tables to patrons to prove to the provincial government that they could reopen safely.  

Although restrictions on restaurants were loosened and dine-in areas are now opened, seeing Sawchuk, along with Lac La Biche Mayor Omer Moghrabi and Town of Bonnyville Mayor Gene Sobolewski, snubbing the regulations in place at the time upset Lavoie and she saw it as them saying "livelihood is more important than life."

“To protest the re-opening of a business by snubbing the law and restrictions shows that money matters more than someone’s life,” Lavoie stated. “To protest the re-opening of restaurants, that was capable of selling their product within the (past) restrictions, showed fellow community members who have lost a loved one to COVID-19, who haven’t been able to be with their loved one as they were dying, who weren’t able to attend the funeral of their loved one to share in the mourning of their loss, that those lives don’t matter. You’re telling those who are isolated from all family and friends, who only visit their loved ones on a screen or through a window that their lives don’t matter. You’re telling the healthcare workers who fight every day to keep people healthy, alive, that their work doesn’t matter. You’re telling every community member who has followed the laws, restrictions, and regulations, that their efforts don’t matter, that it is okay to bend the rules.”  

She continued, “COVID-19 has put stress and strain on every individual in some shape or form. I understand the inequality of the restrictions and regulations on people and their livelihoods, and I understand the need to advocate for small businesses. But what many people don’t seem to grasp - especially in this rural community - is that each one of our decisions in this COVID-19 world could have dire consequences, either directly or indirectly. COVID19 claims the lives of the young and old, those who are healthy and not. It does not discriminate. The laws, restrictions, and regulations are put in place to protect all Albertans, all Canadians.”  

What prompted Lavoie to write a letter and to voice her frustrations was when the Bonnyville Extendicare announced an outbreak at the facility, which happened around the same time as the restaurant protest.  

“Restaurants openly defied government laws and restrictions while residents and staff at the long-term care located minutes away battled COVID-19.”  

Sawchuk stressed that his actions weren’t done to flaunt the restrictions, but to support local business owners. When he was enjoying his lunch at the Lakeland Grill, it was after they had been open for lunch and Sobolewski and Moghrabi weren’t seated at the same table as he was when they were eating.  

Although council had the power not to let Lavoie speak as a delegation, Sawchuk said they decided to let her speak.

“One thing that this council has done is make sure that we have the voices of all sides listened to, and so we thank you for your letter,” he told Lavoie during the meeting.  

Lavoie’s letter and presentation were accepted as information by council.

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle