Lambton County mayor stands by controversial position against vaccine passports

A Lambton County mayor is standing by a controversial public position she has taken against Ontaro’s incoming vaccine passport system.

It follows a statement from her own municipality, distancing itself and councillors from her views.

Jackie Rombouts says she remains unfazed. The mayor of Warwick Township vows to boycott businesses that enforce the provincial vaccine passport — even if those businesses have no choice in the matter.

In fact, Rombouts tells CTV News, she’s been buoyed by the support that’s come her way.

“Probably for every attack I’ve received I’ve gotten 25 to 30 messages of support,” says Rombouts.

In a statement posted to social media Rombouts said “after a lot of contemplation and prayers I have decided that I will not reveal my confidential medical information to anyone except my personal healthcare provider.”

The statement went on to say “I will refuse the Ontario vaccine passport and will not patron any business or organization that will not welcome all my fellow Ontarians equally.”

A day later, Warwick Township issued a statement saying “the views expressed by Mayor Rombouts in her statement do not necessarily reflect those of the Corporation of the Township of Warwick or members of Warwick Township Council.”

It went on to say “the Township of Warwick will continue follow and implement COVID-19 policies and procedures based on recommendations of Lambton Public Health and the provincial government.”

Mayor Rombouts also affirmed to CTV News that her opinion is her own, and should not be confused with that of the township. But she added she’s not about to back down from her position against the provincial vaccine passports.

“I don’t believe in discriminating against anyone. If someone is wearing a burqa that is their choice, that is part of their creed, that is part of their religion. We don’t discriminate against them. I would never in a million years want to discriminate against anybody. And yet, our provincial government is mandating that to happen.”

Jacob Shelley, co-director of the Health Ethics, Law and Policy lab at Western University Law School was taken aback by Rombouts’s statement.

“This individual is likely unfit to hold public office,” said Shelley. He went on to say that as a civic leader and a person of influence, Rombouts’s position sets a dangerous example.

“Contemplation and prayers is pretty low-hanging fruit for decision making kind of basis and there’s no accountability, there’s no substance to those decisions other than ‘this is what I’ve decided,’ and public officials should be held to account for decisions like that. The reality is, is that these measures are being put in place not to divide society, but to protect society,” Shelley explains.

In a bid to avoid another provincial lockdown the Ontario government announced the vaccine passports late last month. Anyone entering various businesses and facilities will need to show proof of vaccination by September 22nd.

Not everyone disagrees with the mayor. Watford business owner Derrick Lucas, whose shop Cauldron Cannabis would not be affected by the passport system, said he supports Rombouts.

“It’s nice to hear a political figure that’s going against the grain and you know standing up for those businesses that don’t necessarily or shouldn’t necessarily have to be involved in these regulations.”

In the meantime, Rombouts’s position is a major departure from local public health. Just last week the medical officer of health for Lambton County released a recommendation that all workplaces implement vaccine mandates, including Lambton County and its councillors.

The recommendation is expected to be considered by county council next week.