At a tense council meeting Monday night, Metchosin’s mayor stood behind Coun. Kyara Kahakauwila even as some frustrated residents called on her to step down as deputy mayor because of her decision to travel internationally.
About a dozen Metchosin residents spoke at the online meeting expressing their disappointment with Kahakauwila’s decision to travel to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in December to attend a friend’s wedding despite public health advice to avoid non-essential travel.
Metchosin resident Rachel French said she’s disturbed that Kahakauwila has not apologized for leaving the country and showed a “cavalier attitude” by telling the media that travel is not illegal. While Kahakauwila quarantined for 14 days after her return to Canada, French said Kahakauwila put the citizens of Mexico at risk by not quarantining when she arrived in that country.
Avril Yoachim said by making the choice to travel internationally, Kahakauwila stood apart from her neighbours and community and signalled that she’s above public health advice not to travel.
“As a business owner, by stating a trip to Mexico is necessary, you insult others who own businesses and who continue to stagger under restrictions and loss of revenue,” Yoachim said.
Erica Richard, a nurse and health care worker, said provincial health officer
Dr. Bonnie Henry has made it a recommendation rather than an order to avoid non-essential travel because she trusts British Columbians to do the right thing to stop the spread of the virus. Richard underscored the seriousness of COVID-19, saying she’s cared for patients who are healthy one day and dead the next.
Kahakauwila was at the meeting but did not immediately respond to the public comments.
Metchosin Mayor John Ranns said while Kahakauwila showed “poor political judgment” in her decision to travel, he does not think she should be punished for a “single bad call in [her] personal life.”
“Holding elected officials to a higher standard is appropriate but there has to be limits,” Ranns said.
Coun. Marie-Térèse Little asked to add an item to the agenda to discuss Kahakauwila’s appointment as deputy mayor. Ranns quickly shot that down, saying the discussion about the deputy mayor role is a personnel issue that requires legal advice and should be held in camera and at another meeting. Several residents voiced their concern about that decision.
Kahakauwila is also the chair of the West Shore Parks & Recreation board and she sits on the Capital Regional District’s regional water supply commission.
Kahakauwila, who owns Victoria-based L.A. Limousines, has defended her decision to travel out of the country, saying several industry professionals were at the wedding so the trip was crucial to sustaining her business which is struggling due to the pandemic. Ranns said Kahakauwila talked about her travel plans at a Nov. 30 Zoom council meeting before she left on Dec. 1.
However, Little and Coun. Sharie Epp have said they did not know Kahakauwila had plans to go to Mexico and they do not support her decision.
Victoria Coun. Sharmarke Dubow is facing calls to resign after news that he travelled to Somalia and Kenya in December. Dubow has not responded to multiple requests for an interview.
Dubow returned on Jan. 4 and says he is completing his 14-day quarantine from a Vancouver hotel. The City of Victoria confirmed it is not paying for his hotel costs.
Dubow has not said whether he received the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit, which provides $500 per week for up to two weeks for workers who are sick or must self-isolate because of COVID-19.
The federal government is working to close a loophole to ensure that anyone who travels for non-essential reasons will not be able to access the benefit to cover the cost of their quarantine after returning to Canada. However, legislation to make such a change has not yet been passed.