Alberta’s Smith says she didn’t mean to trivialize with unvaccinated comment

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she didn’t mean to trivialize the prejudice faced by minority communities when she suggested unvaccinated people faced the most discrimination she had ever seen from his life.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith says she didn’t mean to trivialize the prejudice faced by minority communities when she suggested unvaccinated people faced the most discrimination she had ever seen from his life.

Smith’s comment on his first day as prime minister drew criticism from across Canada – including BC Premier John Horgan, who called it “laughable”, and at least a Jewish group that says it contacted its office to express concern.

Smith said in a statement Wednesday that she intended to highlight the mistreatment of people who chose not to be vaccinated.

“I want to be clear that it was not my intention to trivialize in any way the discrimination faced by minority communities and other persecuted groups or to create false equivalences with the terrible discrimination and persecution suffered by so many minority groups,” the statement read.

Smith was sworn in as Alberta’s new premier on Tuesday after the United Conservative Party elected her in a leadership race to replace Jason Kenney as leader and premier.

Later that day, at her first press conference as premier, Smith said she would overhaul the top tier of the health care system within three months and change provincial human rights law to protect those who choose not to get vaccinated against diseases such as COVID-19.

“(The unvaccinated) were the most discriminated against group I have ever seen in my life,” the 51-year-old said.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had a situation in my life where a person was fired from their job or wasn’t allowed to watch their kids play hockey or wasn’t allowed to visit a loved one in long-term care or hospital, not allowed to board a plane across the country to see family or even cross the border.”

Horgan, who is due to step down as NDP premier of British Columbia later this year, responded to Smith’s comment on Wednesday in an interview with C-FAX Radio in Victoria.

“It’s laughable, quite frankly,” Horgan asked of radio host Al Ferraby’s comment about Smith.

Horgan said the global community had just gone through an unprecedented time with the COVID-19 pandemic – “not like this in over a hundred years since the Spanish Flu”.

“On top of that, we have a toxic drug supply that is killing our friends and neighbors. At the same time, we lack the people to provide the services,” Horgan said.

“For the new Prime Minister to focus on a segment of the population who chose not to get vaccinated when there are all these other challenges seems short-sighted to me. And I just don’t agree with her. I believe the vast majority of Canadians have understood that we have a collective responsibility.”

Data from Alberta Health shows that more than 82% of the province’s total population has received a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 78% of the population has received two doses.

Duane Bratt, a political scientist at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said Smith’s comment would be laughable if she wasn’t the prime minister.

“It shows what drove his campaign and who his supporters are,” he said.

Bratt said Smith’s comment was offensive because there has been a lot of discrimination over the past 50-plus years.

“We still had forced sterilization. We had boarding schools until the 1990s,” he said. “We didn’t have same-sex marriage before (2005).”

Bratt said race, religion, sexual orientation and disabilities are not choices.

“These are things you have and that’s why we don’t allow discrimination based on that,” he said. “Deciding not to get vaccinated is a choice people make.

Some local groups and mayors also expressed concerns about Smith’s comments.

“We have contacted the Premier’s Office to express our concerns about these comments and would like to meet with the Premier to discuss anti-Semitism, discrimination in our community and others in Alberta, the need for education mandatory on the Holocaust and the history of the Alberta Jewish community,” wrote Jewish Edmonton.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said on Twitter there was a lot she could say.

“I have chosen to focus on demonstrating to this premier the work our city continues to do on anti-racism, Indigenous relations, Holocaust remembrance, alliance with the LGBTQ2S+ community, and awareness. based on fairness,” she wrote. “In other words, work that matters.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 12, 2022.

Colette Derworiz, The Canadian Press

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