Lisa Helps
(file photo)

A Victoria city councillor’s decision to travel abroad during the pandemic has been met with condemnation by the mayor.

Councillor Shamarke Dubow admitted to taking a trip to Somalia over the winter holidays on Tuesday, and in a press conference Wednesday Mayor Lisa Helps called that decision “disappointing and irresponsible.”

“There cannot be two sets of expectations, one for the public and one for elected officials,” Helps said.

“As community leaders we should be held to a higher standard and should be exemplary role models, following all of the very clear public health advice we’ve all received.”

The mayor said that her role does not empower her to fire Dubow or to call for his resignation and that he is answerable to the public.

For his part, Dubow has indicated he intends to remain in his post while expressing regret for the decision, saying he is committed to representing his constituents.

Helps also said she was not aware of his plans to travel, but if she had known in advance she would have advised against it.

Government advisories have been in place since March of 2020 against non-essential travel.

What constitutes “non-essential” travel is left to the discretion of the individual, though both federal and provincial governments have strongly advised against trips for pleasure, family visits, and even weddings or funerals.

When asked if the rules should be further clarified, Helps said Victoria’s residents have been able to exercise their discretion responsibly.

“I don’t know whether the rules should be changed, but what I know is I have received tons of emails today from residents, saying that they didn’t travel to Alberta to see their dying father, that they saw their grandkids in the UK on Zoom.

“Members of the public have exercised discretion in the interests of public safety and coming together to defeat COVID-19.”

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