BONNYVILLE – Roughly 40 Lakeland parents took a stand outside the Northern Lights Public Schools' (NLPS) main offices in Bonnyville during a board of trustees meeting on Jan. 12.
Presenting inside to NLPS trustees was parent and Lakeland United and Rising spokesperson Miranda Remillard. Outside, parents and others who oppose vaccine mandates of staff and mandatory mask measures for youth, huddled around a loudspeaker listening to Remillard speak.
“Lakeland parents recognize the unprecedented times we are in,” Remillard began. “Children of today exist within a world driven by stress and unanswered questions. Many of the health measures implemented within their everyday lives are confusing and frightening.”
During her allotted 15-minute presentation, Remillard touched on several topics, but her comments boiled down to one main point, “School board officials should take great care in their decision-making process regarding imposing harsh restrictions for students, employees and staff.”
For those who gathered outside the school division building, they feel as though public health measures that have been carried out by the province and handed down to school boards to implement, often present more harm to students’ mental and physical health than the COVID-19 virus itself.
Parents standing outside the Wednesday afternoon board meeting want to see the board oppose any measures that would require any staff members be vaccinated to stay on the job, they also want mandatory masking of students removed from schools' policies – allowing students and parents to make their own choice of whether to mask up.
“We fear the erosion of our free society. We question the single-minded fixation on a virus that poses little risk to most people,” continued Remillard. “We protest the uncalculated harms COVID policies in our schools are causing to our children’s health, relationships and psychological states.”
“We oppose the mass hysteria and anxiety that our children are subjected to by decisions made by this board. But most of all, we object to the deterioration of our legal parental authority over our children and the failure of our legal institutions – legislatures, governments, administrative bodies, and courts – to protect them.”
Amy Schaffrick, who has four students in the Lakeland Catholic school system, arrived at the NLPS building to show support for other Lakeland public school parents who were unable to attend.
Schaffrick told Lakeland This Week, that although she and others recognize that COVID-19 is infecting people across the globe, they feel the governmental measures in response have had far more damaging consequences and are now overarching Canadians rights and freedoms.
“At the end of the day, we as parents are standing here today at the bottom of the chain saying ‘yes, it is a chain, and we understand that you are also part of that chain. But the point is that the chain must break.’ So, we're asking (the school board trustees) to break it,” said Schaffrick. “Anywhere along the line will work as long as the chain breaks, and we are all allowed to be free.”
She says that when it comes to carrying out and enforcing public health measures, these guidelines continue to flow top down, with organizations, boards and bureaucrats relaying measures from senior authorities without any public discourse.
“I think we stand in a precarious position where we see some things that have happened that we don't like,” she said, referring to school districts, such as St. Paul Education who created a policy requiring staff to be vaccinated, test regularly, or take an unpaid leave.
“What we would like from the trustees right now is promise that they will not mandate our teachers, our students to be vaccinated (to attend class), please promise that you will not bully students who are wanting to pull their masks down and breathe.”
Facing criticism and scrutiny for speaking against government health measures, Shaffrick said “Being a minority will always make a person study more, and double check to make sure he is correct, in his science and his findings because it matters. Because it's a matter of whether or not you can go to a film, your favourite restaurant, or go watch a movie or not and be with your family – So, if you have something to lose, you want to make sure it's worth losing.”
Schaffrick added, “At the end of the day, we're asking people to be noble, and being noble means standing up and being courageous, for what you know to be both true and important.”
NLPS Board Chair Karen Packard thanked Miranda Remillard and two other presenters, Julie Kissel and Craig Werstiuk, for their presentations. Packard reaffirmed that the board appreciates hearing from parents and said the board would review their presentations and other documentation that had been provided.
There were no motions made by the NLPS Board of Trustees in relation to the presentations.
This article was updated on Jan. 19, 2022, to reflect that the Northern Lights Public School Board of Trustees meeting occurred on Jan. 12, 2022.