July 17th, 2024

Esplanade to require proof of vaxx if requested by performers

By COLLIN GALLANT on August 28, 2021.

cgallant@medicinehatnews.com@CollinGallant

A city of Medicine Hat policy to follow concert artists’ wishes regarding vaccination requirements for shows at the Esplanade caused a furor online, but so far “very limited” requests for refunds, administrators say.

Such a decision would also be respected for the larger city-owned concert and hockey venue, Co-op Place, though the issue hasn’t yet arisen, said Trampas Brown, the Esplanade’s manager.

“We’re responding to what the artists require,” Brown told the News on Friday, following the announcement the Esplanade Arts and Heritage centre will not generally not make vaccination level a requirement of attending a show at the downtown concert venue.

However, they will comply and check vaccination status if artists and promoters request it.

At this point, that only applies to a scheduled Nov. 12 performance by the band City and Colour, which is being promoted by concert tour organizer Live Nation. That company made it a blanket policy across North American dates to require the measure at its shows.

While that may apply to future concerts planned at the Co-op Place, at this point it does not pose an issue with local Western Hockey League games, which are set to begin here in early October.

“We do expect it to become more prevalent in the (music) industry,” said Brown. “We’re still sorting out what (the process to verify vaccinations) will look like.”

This week, Alberta Health Minister Tyler Shandro announced the province will begin a process to issue a card – which could be used at an increasing number of places and businesses that require vaccination or proof of negative test in cases of international travel. However, Shandro was careful not to call it a “passport” and stressed the government doesn’t require proof of vaccinations.

That is likely in response to a vocal opposition to so-called “vaccine passports” which has also become a federal election issue, though health is mainly a provincial issue.

The area’s Peoples Party of Canada federal election candidate Brodie Heidinger said he couldn’t support the city’s move in an online post.

Other provinces, like Quebec, have issued specific electronic documents for smart phones that would allow proof of vaccinations.

Quebec’s system of restrictions could localize curfews in case of new outbreaks, and the document would be used by police to enforce the measures.

On Monday, the B.C. government announced it will issue cards that will be required for a wide variety of indoor activities, from restaurant dining and weddings up to ticket sporting events, like WHL hockey games, or entering a casino.

In Alberta, Mount Royal University in Calgary will require masks in all indoor spaces as of Monday, with a rapid testing program to follow in the fall semester. Those proving double vaccination status can opt-out of testing.

The Medicine Hat policy garnered the attention of Ezra Levant, the proprietor of the Rebel News outlet, who told readers on social media the city’s policy looked as though it was written by “a bad lawyer” and they could expect legal challenges if they do not have an exemption system in place.

A number of other posts decry the city’s position, calling it fascist and discriminatory. Others called it “passive-aggressive” by the city to direct criticism onto the artists.

The situation for upcoming hockey season also greatly varies from city to city, with the Western Hockey League taking no firm position on the issue of attendance.

This month the Western Hockey League announced it would require players and team staff to be vaccinated before joining their teams in the upcoming season.

The owners of the Calgary Hitmen and Edmonton Oil Kings – as well as NHL teams in respective cities — have made vaccination status a prerequisite of entrance to the Scotiabank Saddledome and Rexall Place.

The WHL and Medicine Hat Tigers did not respond to interview requests sent on Friday.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Mount Royal University’s rapid testing program would begin Monday. The school’s masking rules will be enforced as of Monday, with a rapid testing program to follow in the fall semester. 

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