iN VIDEO: Kelowna child with cancer has to leave Ronald McDonald house because parents refused vaccine | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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iN VIDEO: Kelowna child with cancer has to leave Ronald McDonald house because parents refused vaccine

Austin Furgason (right) of Kelowna confronts an unidentified Ronald McDonald House employee in Vancouver over a new COVID-19 vaccine policy at the facility.
Image Credit: FACEBOOK/Austin Furgason

A child with leukemia may be forced to leave the Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver because his Kelowna parents are not vaccinated.

A video has circulated social media where Austin Furgason confronts staff at the non-profit to take issue with a new vaccine policy the facility is adopting.

In the video, Furgason holds a letter to the camera which shows the non-profit's vaccine policy will come into effect on Jan. 17, which will require everyone over the age of five staying in the building to be vaccinated.

Families already staying at the facility will be given a grace period until Jan. 31, at which point they would be required to leave the facility.

READ MORE: COVID outbreak declared at Kelowna General Hospital

The policy follows rising COVID-19 cases across B.C., which began before January with the introduction of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Provincial health authorities instituted more stringent restrictions on Dec. 22 in an effort to slow transmission of the virus in B.C. This included closing gyms and bars across the province, and the closures are scheduled to be lifted on Jan. 18.

The Ronald McDonald House implemented the new vaccine policy upon recommendation from public health, which was later mandated by its 14 board of directors, according to a statement.

"Caring for families with sick children in a safe environment has always been our top priority at Ronald McDonald House B.C. and Yukon. We have had specific procedures and policies such as limiting visitors to the House, daily wellness checks, and physical distancing in place throughout the pandemic that are designed to ensure the highest level of safety for families, staff and volunteers within our communal living environment," the statement reads.

Ronald McDonald House said the policy was implemented to "ensure we continue to meet the highest standards of health and safety and protect the vulnerable population we serve."

Furgason claims in the video that the vaccine policy is "coercing people to get a vaccine, choosing between their children and their own beliefs."

An unidentified staff member then asks for clarity, as to whether or not he is vaccinated, to which he said no.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: Anti-maskers arrested, fined at Kamloops Superstore

"Everybody thinks kids should be supported, and you're saying that over a vaccine you're going to evict people," he said. "Don't think you guys are going to get away with this, because we are going to fight this and we are going to expose this," he said.

Furgason, and his wife Lindsey, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Ronald McDonald House of B.C. and Yukon, which houses children and families that need a place to stay while a child is treated in hospital, implemented the policy in an effort to keep the facility safe for families, visitors and employees, according to the letter Furgason revealed in the video. No one from the facility immediately responded to a request for comment.

"We appreciate that this policy will impact those who have made a decision not to vaccinate however, the overall health and welfare of all our residents is our primary concern," the Ronald McDonald House statement reads.

An online fundraiser is nearing $100,000 in donations for the family, as of Wednesday afternoon, in the wake of the "eviction" letter.

The fundraising page says the Furgasons attend the Kelowna Harvest Church, which is known for opposing public health orders since receiving fines in January 2021.

The Furgasons' son Jack is being treated for acute lymphoblastic leukemia in Vancouver, and is under the age of five so not subject to the vaccine policy.

READ MORE: West Kelowna gym fined for defying health order not giving up fight

— This story was updated at 11:50 p.m., Jan. 13, 2022, with a statement from Ronald McDonald House of B.C. and Yukon.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Levi Landry or call 250-819-3723 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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