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Gananoque, Ont. town councillor suspended for criticizing proof of vaccination requirements

Councillor Mike Kench has been suspended 90 days for comments he made in emails to several organizations.
Councillor Mike Kench has been suspended 90 days for comments he made in emails to several organizations. Town of Gananoque.

A Gananoque, Ont., town councillor is in hot water after contacting a number of local organizations and criticizing them for requiring proof of vaccination.

Councillor Mike Kench has now been sanctioned by the town’s integrity commissioner for what’s described as bullying behaviour. That included comparing vaccine mandates to the Holocaust.

The first-term councillor was slapped with a 90-day pay suspension.

“Vaccines do not stop transmission, therefore what is the benefit?” Mike Kench said in an interview with Global News. “What is the gain of the vaccine passports?”

Kench says he sent a series of emails, starting with the YMCA, after they released their COVID-19 protocols barring those who were unvaccinated from their facilities.

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“Immediately, I responded and said this is disgusting, this is shameful, this is discriminatory behaviour,” Kench said.

In a 10-page report from the town’s integrity commissioner, Kench is said to have sent another email to the fire chief comparing the government’s response to the pandemic to the Nuremberg trials, which followed the Holocaust.

Integrity Commissioner Tony Fleming’s report states that Kench’s advocacy was “more than simply disrespectful, it crossed the line into bullying and intimidation.”

While the councillor says he could have worded things differently, he stands by the message.

“Not one person under 50 has died COVID-related in Leeds-Grenville-Lanark Health Unit and if you follow ontario.ca and canada.ca more people that are vaccinated now have COVID-19,” Kench said.

One of the area’s top doctors says Kench is missing the point of vaccinations.

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“Vaccines clearly impact and reduce transmission,” epidemiologist Dr. Gerald Evans said.

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The infectious disease expert says vaccines do limit the spread of the virus and more importantly, those who have been vaccinated, while they may still contract the virus, are far less likely to get sick or die.

“We saw anywhere from 70 to 85 per cent reduction in getting infected and ultimately transmitting it when we were dealing with Alpha and Delta,” Evans said.

“Vaccines have a clear and important role in reducing transmission of this infection.”

Evans added that those in leadership roles who spread what he describes as misinformation are harmful to society.

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“Anyone perceived to be a leader can have an impact on people who are looking for simple, straightforward solutions,” Evans said.

The councillor says he doesn’t describe himself as anti-vaccine, but rather, ‘vaccine hesitant’, and will continue to practice physical distancing and handwashing until he’s personally convinced that the vaccine is necessary.

This is despite what the scientific community considers overwhelming evidence that vaccines dramatically reduce transmission and protect the vulnerable from severe outcomes.

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