Backlash begins for Niagara businesses still asking for vaccination proof


Published March 1, 2022 at 12:15 pm

While businesses are left to decide their own vaccination policies even after the province lifted its mandates, St. Catharines regional councillor Laura Ip, the owner of Underdogs Boxing Club, is already hearing from the anti-vaxx boo-birds for maintaining the policy at her business. (Photo: Niagara Region)

While most town and city facilities in Niagara Region have now dropping proof of vaccination today (March 1) as the province eased the restrictions, it remains left in the hands of Niagara’s businesses whether or not they choose to do likewise.

In the case of Laura Ip, a St. Catharines regional councillor and owner of the non-profit Underdogs Boxing Club on Scott Street, she had been making it clear that her business will continue to ask for vaccination proof as far back as mid-February.

By yesterday, the backlash from anti-vaxxers had already begun.

“I’m writing this, because people who are not members and who I don’t think have any intention of becoming members have been offering their ‘feedback’,” she posted on Underdogs Facebook page.
“For the foreseeable future, Underdogs will continue to require proof of vaccination against COVID. We will also not yet be increasing capacity limits for classes.”

By today, the backlash got a little worse. “I woke to a few comments/reactions and a lot of e-mails/messages from people unhappy about our vaccination policy,” said Ip.

She continued firmly, “We won’t be bullied into making decisions that are not in the best interests of our members, their families, and our communities, especially by people who have no actual interest in Underdogs.”

The business owner did her best to explain the club’s stand, posting, “We are keeping these measures in place, because we feel it is important to protect the health of our members, their families, and our community members, and because several existing and long-standing members have expressed that it offers them peace of mind.”

While that would seem self-explanatory to the great majority, she nonetheless reached out to the vocal minority, saying everyone was entitled to their views.

“Being opposed to Underdogs’ decision is perfectly fine and well within the rights of those who are opposed,” she noted. “Those who are opposed are also under no obligation whatsoever to become members of Underdogs (just as) Underdogs is not required to take anyone’s money so that they can become members.”

During the lockdowns earlier this year, Underdogs continued to offer online sessions. The work-out facility says that it is completely inclusive and “always strives to ensure everyone feels welcome – trans and cis women, trans and cis men and all non-binary folks.”

Ip make the news in January when she started up a GoFundMe for St. Catharines Ward 4 Councillor Katie Porter after someone smashed in her living room window with a rock. It was the second time in a month Porter’s house has been vandalized.

However, a Thorold threatened to take the matter to the Integrity Commissioner, saying councillors should not get finances from citizens for personal reasons. Rather than a lengthy battles in front of the integrity commissioner, Ip and Porter let the matter drop with Ip returning donations to those who gave.

For the record, the GoFundMe hit its target within hours, showing the community certainly had Porter’s back.

Premier Doug Ford noted this morning while lifting the vaccination mandate for business, that it was still completely up to the individual businesses to proceed as they saw fit. “Proof of vaccination is no longer required but some businesses may choose to continue to ask for it,” posted Ford. “We’ve come so far. Please be kind, safe and cautious.”

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