C: CTV News (Still from YouTube)

Alberta Premier says unvaccinated “most discriminated against group I’ve ever witnessed”

Alberta’s new Premier Danielle Smith has pledged to protect those who have chosen not to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The new premier of Alberta in western Canada, who was sworn in on Tuesday, told reporters that the unvaccinated have been “the most discriminated against group that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime” in reference to restrictions which were imposed on those who had not been jabbed.

Smith said she wanted to stand up against creating a ‘segregated’ society on the ‘basis of medical choice’ as she slammed the restrictions which were imposed on unvaccinated Canadians. 

“(The unvaccinated) have been the most discriminated-against group that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime,” Smith told reporters at the legislature.

“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, not allowed to get on a plane to either go across the country to see family or even travel across the border.

“I find that unacceptable. We are not going to create a segregated society on the basis of a medical choice.”

She added that those who made a choice not to be vaccinated became the “community that faced the most restrictions on their freedoms in the last year” when asked about vaccine choice by a reporter, adding: “That’s a pretty extreme level of discrimination”.

Earlier in the day, the Canadian politician, journalist and newly elected leader of the United Conservative party was sworn into the job by Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani at a ceremony at Government House, becoming Alberta’s 19th premier. 

In her address, she said that Albertans had been through a lot over the course of the last two and a half years, adding that “our rights and freedoms have been tested”.

“I will ensure as head of this government that those rights and freedoms are protected and will never be taken for granted again,” Smith, 51, said. 

While her comments attracted support from many, particularly those who faced difficulties for not taking a Covid vaccine, some rallied against the new Conservative leader and premier. However, Smith refused to back down, releasing a statement on Wednesday in response to the backlash from some political figures in Canada, who disputed her assertion that the unvaccinated were the ‘most discriminated against’.

“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,” Smith said.

“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.

“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.

In January 2022, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau labelled unvaccinated people as racist misogynists who do not believe in science or progress. 

Speaking in French, he told a Quebec television station that Canadians need to make a choice as to whether they will tolerate ‘these people.’

“They don’t believe in science/progress and are very often misogynistic and racist. It’s a very small group of people, but that doesn’t shy away from the fact that they take up some space.

“This leads us, as a leader and as a country, to make a choice: Do we tolerate these people?” he said in comments which fostered division and alarmed many. 

In some Canadian provinces including Quebec, there was a tough crackdown on unvaccinated, through measures including the requirement of proof of vaccination to shop in liquor stores, while the province also announced plans to tax unvaccinated Canadians. 

The financial punishment was described as a barrier to freedom of choice and personal autonomy, and attracted sharp criticism from Canadian psychologist Dr Jordan Peterson.

Covid-19 border measures, which meant those entering Canada had to be vaccinated, only came to an end on 1 October. The rule meant that many unvaccinated people could not see loved ones in Canada, and a similar vaccine mandate still remains in place for international travellers entering the United States.

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