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This article was published 22/11/2021 (186 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — Provencher MP Ted Falk, who has refused to disclose his COVID-19 vaccination status, entered Parliament on Monday, meaning he's either immunized or has provided a medical reason to not be.
"I’m excited to be back in Ottawa and to take my seat in the House of Commons, representing constituents of Provencher again," the Conservative MP told the Free Press, moments before entering the West Block.
A multi-party board of MPs implemented a policy that took effect Monday, where access to the parliamentary precinct is contingent on MPs, staff, journalists and visitors having either provided proof of vaccination or proof of "a medical contraindication to full vaccination against COVID-19," along with a recent negative antigen test.
Among all 14 MPs representing Manitoba ridings, Falk is the only one who has refused to specify whether he’s been vaccinated, or if he provided a medical reason to not be immunized to the House of Commons administration.
A House spokeswoman said Monday all MPs have met ether criteria, with the Commons’ human resources department verifying whether the medical exemptions were valid.
The Speaker’s office would not say how many of the 338 MPs presented a medical exemption.
"For reasons of confidentiality, we are not sharing details concerning the vaccination status of members," wrote spokeswoman Heather Bradley.
Security staff have implemented the policy through the plastic access passes that MPs, staff and journalists use to enter Hill buildings. Anyone who hasn’t provided vaccination documentation won't have their chip card work opening the entrance gates, and they'll have to show precinct guards their proof of vaccination.
On the eve of Parliament's return, the Conservatives announced Quebec MP Richard Lehoux had tested positive for COVID-19. Under Ontario public health rules, any unvaccinated who was in close contact with Lehoux during last week’s Tory caucus meeting would have to self-isolate.
The party said Monday no MPs have had to do so.
"With the exception of Mr. Lehoux, any Conservative MPs not in the House of Commons are away due to reasons unrelated to COVID-19 or the (House) vaccine mandate," wrote Tory spokeswoman Josie Sabatino.
For months, Falk has refused to say whether he got vaccinated, arguing he’s standing up for the principle of protecting personal health information.
Northern Manitoba NDP MP Niki Ashton was surprised to hear Falk had entered the building.
As she made her way into the West Block, Ashton said the policy gives her some comfort, as the mother of four-year-old twins who are too young to be vaccinated.
"This isn’t something to play political games on; we need to make sure that we’re upholding the rules put forward by the House and that MPs don’t get special treatment," said Ashton, who represents the riding of Churchill—Keewatinook Aski.
"This is a public health emergency and there’s just no room to play games."
In August, Falk apologized during the election campaign for peddling misinformation by suggesting COVID-19 vaccinations somehow made people more likely die from the novel coronavirus, despite reams of research showing the opposite.
Falk also told a podcast in April he was "not completely sold on this vaccination," saying the shots were created quickly and "may be fine," but he played down the consequences of COVID-19 on people’s health.
His riding includes communities with some of the lowest vaccination uptake in Canada, which also had disproportionately high support for the People’s Party of Canada, such as La Broquerie and Hanover.