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Wednesday , 5 October 2022

Bonnyville & District Centennial Centre will implement Restrictions Exemption Program before New Year

As of December 27, the Board and Management of the Bonnyville & District Centennial Centre (C2) will implement the Restrictions Exemption Program (REP).

To enter the C2 proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test for all adults 18 years and older and 12 years and older for spectators will be required. However, youth engaged in physical activity or fitness will not have to provide proof.

The REP allows eligible venues and services to be exempt from capacity, physical distancing, and other operating restrictions. Venues that implement the program must continue to follow mandatory indoor masking requirements.

Anyone aged 12 and older is required to provide one of the following to access events and venues participating in the program:

  • Government-issued proof of a complete vaccine series with QR code, including those from other Canadian provinces and territories (with the second dose received two weeks or more before the time of service).
    • Valid identification that matches the vaccine record is required for adults 18 years and over.
    • First Nation and Canadian Armed Forces vaccine records are accepted proof of vaccination and do not require a QR code.
    • Out-of-country vaccine records are also accepted in Alberta and do not require a QR code.
  • A negative privately paid COVID-19 test from within the previous 72 hours.
  • Valid proof of a medical exemption.

The REP program will allow the C2 to operate without the majority of public health restrictions in CMOH Order 44-2021. The REP is an optional program, and operators who choose not to participate may continue to operate but must fully implement all of the public health restrictions outlined in CMOH Order 44-2021.

“The REP is not intended or required for employees or contractors attending workplaces. Operators are strongly encouraged to promote COVID-19 vaccination to staff, volunteers, attendees, and other eligible persons as part of their public health strategy, and any consideration of vaccine requirements for staff is an employer decision,” Alberta Health Services said.

AHS says operators of REP will be audited for compliance. Alberta Health Services, Alberta Gaming, Liquor, Cannabis and police units in Alberta are able to enforce the requirements of this program.

“Additionally, public complaints will support increased compliance and enforcement efforts,” AHS stated. “If operators are not complying with these requirements or the current public health restrictions, then enforcement and prosecution may result in fines up to $100,000 (for a first offence).”

Board Decision

On December 20, the Bonnyville & District Centennial Centre (C2) Board made the decision to Implement the REP Program effective, Monday, December 27, 2021, at 6:00 a.m.

“The health, safety, and well-being of our guests, tenants, staff, and community are always a top priority of the C2,” The C2 Board stated in a news release. “The C2 will be implementing the REP. Following careful consideration of options, data, and projections, the decision to move to REP is supported by both management and the C2 Board of Directors. By adopting REP, we will be doing our part to help ensure the safety of all those who enter our facility for a wide variety of events and activities, as well as our staff.”

Currently, under the 1/3 capacity rule, no food or drink is being served at the C2. If children and parents are sneaking food or drink it is a direct violation of the 1/3 capacity rule set out by AHS.

“REP will enable us to operate at a level more similar to that of pre-COVID, and help us to more effectively recover from the impacts of the pandemic,” the C2 Board said. “The REP will once again give us the opportunity to offer diverse programs for adults, youth, and children, venues for events, meetings and gatherings, and full food services.”

The REP will also allow easier access to the gym for people wanting to get back to their regular routine.

“Our fitness facilities and fitness programs will operate with few to no restrictions, and appointments will no longer be required for the gym and walking track,” the C2 Board said.

Venue capacity limits will return to pre-pandemic levels, the C2 Board added.

“We look forward to the events and activities that will be happening at the Bonnyville & District Centennial Centre over the coming weeks, and will adapt as needed to make sure we are following provincial mandates and providing a safe experience,” the C2 Board concluded.

Avoiding lay offs

With the implementation of the REP at the C2 the Board will avoid having to lay off some of its valuable employees just before Christmas.

Councillor Byron Johnson from the Town of Bonnyville is part of the C2 Board.

“We will operate the C2 as intended, to the most of its capacity available for everybody to use,” Johnson told Lakeland Connect. “And the REP program enables us to do that, avoiding laying off, you know potentially nine to 12 staff.”

Johnson says without the REP being implemented programming in other areas can’t run like its supposed to.

“We don’t want to have to lay a bunch of people off. We don’t want people to lose jobs,” Johnson said. “We want to work with all the groups to make this as transition as a easy as possible. It’s a tough one, but we truly want to work with everybody and make this work the best that we can.”

Minor Hockey wants 100 per cent participation

A decision which the Board of Bonnyville Minor Hockey (BMHA) doesn’t agree with. It is unclear if all families of Bonnyville Minor Hockey children were surveyed but the BMHA which represents the families says “It’s our mission as a Minor Hockey Board is to have 100 per cent participation by our membership.”

With the implementation of REP youth aged 12-17 participating in a youth sport or physical activity are not required to provide proof of vaccination, proof of medical exemption, or a negative test result.

“It goes back to mental health because of everything that’s happened in the last couple of years,” Terry Rupp President of Bonnyville Minor Hockey said. “It’s affected our kids a lot. And we feel that them being on the ice with teammates and positive influences and coaches and other volunteers that they get that opportunity.”.

Membership participation is now limited by REP says, Rupp.

“If there are coaches there that aren’t compliant, and now that team doesn’t have a coach they can’t play,” Rupp said. “It’s not like you can just go grab another Mom or Dad that are willing to go help that team out or coach that team for the time being because there are certain certifications you got to have, for example, certain safety courses.”

Rupp says although there is a divide in opinions, in the end, he just wants what’s best for the children in the community.

“We’re all family and friends on each side of this, but to me, I think we’re all together, we want the best for minor hockey and the community,” Rupp said. “It’s the government that’s put us in this position. It’s not the C2 Board or minor hockey. It’s the government, they’re causing a divide, which shouldn’t have needed to happen.”

Parents not asked

One parent who wishes to remain unnamed out of fear of being bullied online says BMHA did not survey any parents before sending out the email to hockey parents stating their disappointment in the C2’s decision to implement the REP program.

“Nobody has ever sent any type of survey or questionnaire asking what we would like to see,” the parent told Lakeland Connect. “In my personal opinion, having talked with parents at the C2, we were all tired of not being able to eat any food or even let kids have water while watching their siblings play hockey.”

Currently, under the 1/3 capacity rule, no food is being served. The REP program will allow concessions to open.

“For a family with younger kids, this is extremely hard. Even for the players themselves if they wanted to have food between games it had to be hidden and we had to break rules to allow a kid to eat a snack before playing,” the Parent said. “Having other teams come for tournaments or to play at the C2 was embarrassing as there were zero options for food.”

This also means empty vending machines and nothing to drink, the concerned hockey mom added.

“After talking with a lot of parents we were always in agreement that we just wished it was implemented already so we could feed our kids, enjoy the game with a coffee or just return to a semblance of normalcy,” the Parent said. “People complaining about the REP are not necessarily those sitting at a rink for many hours in a day. It’s frustrating that they think they represent all of us.”

Local sports store owner says, “Only for the vaccinated.”

Mitch Sylvestre who owns Sylvestre Sports in Bonnyville says, “It seems to me that the community that I grew up in and supported my whole life was better than that.” When talking about the divide the vaccine debate has caused amongst citizens in the Lakeland concerning the implementation of the Rep at the C2.

“The community came together to build the C2,” Sylvestre told Lakeland Connect. “A lot of people, including myself, put money towards it, others lots of effort.”

Sylvestre says the C2 has become the hub of the community.

“Only for the vaccinated apparently in our new woke world,” Sylvestre said. “I do not care about vaccine status. You have your own life, you choose. What I do care about is making and implementing the stupid rules around it. We have a duty to stand against stupid laws.”

The REP Rules

Please note these details for all visitors to the Bonnyville & District Centennial Centre starting December 27, 2021:

  • Masks must be worn at all times unless actively engaged in physical activity or eating/drinking
  • Everyone aged 18 and over entering the Bonnyville & District Centennial Centre for all programs, services, or events are required to provide QR code proof of vaccination, proof of medical exemption, or a negative test result, and proof of identification. Full details on accepted documentation are at www.alberta.ca/REP
  • Youth aged 12-17 participating in a youth sport or physical activity are not required to provide proof of vaccination, proof of medical exemption, or a negative test result
  • Youth aged 12-17 who are not participating in a youth sport or physical activity are required to provide QR code proof of vaccination, proof of medical exemption, or a negative test result. Full details on accepted documentation are at www.alberta.ca/REP
  • All adults involved in supporting youth in sport and activities must follow REP requirements
  • All spectators are required to follow REP requirements

Full details on the Government of Alberta’s Restrictions Exemption Program are here.

About Arthur C. Green

Arthur C. Green is an award winning journalist and is from Whitbourne Newfoundland. Green graduated from the CNA Journalism Program. Arthur also studied Business Marketing and Political Science at Memorial University in Essex England and St. John's Newfoundland. Green has worked for such organizations as CBC, CBC Radio, NTV, Saltwire, Great West Media, CKLB Radio, River Radio, Vista Radio, and Postmedia. He also loves Jiggs Dinner and can fillet a Codfish.