On Wednesday, Alberta premier Danielle Smith released a statement about comments she made a day earlier about people who chose not to be vaccinated being “the most discriminated against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime.”
The comment garnered widespread criticism online and from other political figures in Canada.
In a statement issued just before noon on Wednesday, Smith addressed the concerns, but didn’t back down from her comments.
“Yesterday, I made comments regarding the discrimination unvaccinated individuals have suffered through over during the past two years. My intention was to underline the mistreatment of individuals who chose not to be vaccinated and were punished by not being able to work, travel or, in some cases, see loved ones.
“I want to be clear that I did not intend to trivialize in any way the discrimination faced by minority communities and other persecuted groups both here in Canada and around the world or to create any false equivalencies to the terrible historical discrimination and persecution suffered by so many minority groups over the last decades and centuries.
“We need to actively work together as Albertans and Canadians to end all discrimination against all minority communities,” Smith said.
“I am committed to listening, learning and addressing the issues affecting minority communities. Over the next few days, my office will be reaching out to set up meetings with minority community stakeholders so I can better understand the different concerns of their individual communities,” the statement concluded.
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In an interview with CFAX Radio in Victoria, B.C. Premier John Horgan called Smith’s comments “laughable.”
“We, collectively, not just British Columbians and Canadians, but the global community has just gone through an unprecedented time, nothing like this in over 100 years, going back to the Spanish influenza. And, on top of that, we have a toxic drug supply that’s killing our brothers and sisters, our friends and our neighbours. At the same time, we’re running out of people to provide the services,” Horgan said.
“These are critical times and for the incoming premier to focus on a sliver of the population who chose not to get vaccinated when there’s all these other challenges, seems shortsighted to me.”
He also said he disagrees with Smith.
“I believe the vast majority of Canadians understood that we had a collective responsibly.”
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In her first news conference as Alberta premier, Smith said Tuesday her goals for the next seven months include reforming Alberta Health Services, the sovereignty act, health spending accounts, more educational assistance in the classroom and changing the human rights act so that vaccine choice is a protected category.
When asked by a reporter how she sees vaccine choice as equal to other protected grounds like race, gender and sexuality, Smith paused before replying.
“I guess the way I look at it is that the community that faced the most restrictions on their freedoms in the last year were those who made a choice not to be vaccinated,” Smith said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever experienced a situation in my lifetime where a person was fired from their job, or not allowed to watch their kids play hockey, or not allowed to go visit a loved one in long-term care or hospital, or not allowed to get on a plane to either go across the country to see family or even travel across the border.
“They have been the most discriminated against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime. That’s a pretty extreme level of discrimination that we’ve seen.
“I don’t take away any of the discrimination that I’ve seen in those other groups that you mentioned,” Smith added, “but this has been an extraordinary time in the last year in particular and I want people to know that I find that unacceptable.
“We are not going to create a segregated society on the basis of a medical choice,” Alberta’s new premier stated.
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Smith said she wants coronavirus to be approached like influenza.
“Vaccination really is for self-protection in this case because you have to make your own choice about what your own medical status is in conjunction with your own doctor and your own preexisting medical conditions. And we have to stop trying to victimize a particular group because they made a different choice,” she said during Tuesday’s news conference.
“I know that that’s going to be a little challenging for some people who’ve been holding a different view for a long period of time but if I need to make the point that this kind of discrimination is unacceptable, the best way to do it is changing the human rights act.”
Currently, Alberta’s human rights act provides protection from discrimination due to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, gender identity, gender expression, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income, family status and sexual orientation.
— More to come…
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