The president of the Yorkton, Sask., Chamber of Commerce is under fire for online comments he made regarding masks and COVID-19.
Over the past several weeks, Mike Stackhouse has used his personal blog and Twitter account to criticize the government’s response to the pandemic and the effectiveness of masks.
These comments come as health officials declared three outbreaks of COVID-19 on Monday, saying there is a cluster of active cases in and around the City of Yorkton.
Earlier this month, Stackhouse posted a tweet saying in part, “until people start being admitted in hospital, it’s time to quit caring about this… we must quit following these nonsensical orders.”
On Sunday, in a blog post, Stackhouse said he is not anti-mask, but rather an “advocate of choice,” saying he is against mandatory mask policies. He also said, he won’t go into a business which requires masks.
“If all the grocery stores in Yorkton required them and I need to go pick something up, I would wear one. But while I still have the ability to choose, I’m going to shop at the ones that do not require me to wear one,” Stackhouse said in the blog post.
He then went on to say that he would support masks in a crowded sports arena, concert venue or public transit and called it “courteous” to wear a mask around a vulnerable person.
However, he added, “I also think if you are a vulnerable person you also have to be responsible for yourself and not rely on strangers to do it for you.”
The Yorkton Chamber of Commerce told Global News, that Stackhouse’s views do not reflect the the views of the Chamber.
“As Mr. Stackhouse’s comments were not used or given on any of the Chamber’s social media platforms, they are entirely his own views. They are not those of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce,” said Juanita Polegi, executive director of the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce.
“This is a democracy and everyone has the right to express their own views.”
But health policy consultant Dr. Dennis Kendel disagreed and called Stackhouse’s views irresponsible, saying it puts citizens at risk.
“It suggests that people in leadership roles do not have accountability for the influence they have on the action of others,” Kendel said.
“To say basically that he won’t go to businesses that require him to wear a mask, he is essentially signaling to the public that that’s a recommended approach they should take.”
Given recent outbreaks in the area, Kendel said it’s important now more than ever that the community work together to stop community transmission.
“Wearing masks when you’re outside in public is just a responsible thing to do as a citizen. It’s to protect other people,” Kendel said.
“That would be something that I would expect the leader of the Chamber of Commerce to model and to recommend.”
Meanwhile, Yorkton’s mayor, Bob Maloney, said the city continues to follow guidelines set out by the province.
“We continue to do that and I don’t really want to be critical of another official, I think he’s responsible to chamber members and to his board,” Maloney said.
“I think Yorkton businesses have done a terrific job of making sure they keep their doors open, dealing with it in a responsible way and at some point I hope we can move forward.”
Global News reached out to Stackhouse for comment but did not receive a response.
© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
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