Vexed by vaccine mandate: Tories lash out at own government

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Two Tory backbenchers accuse their own government of infringing on Manitobans' rights, including one who has seemingly compared the incoming vaccination mandate to residential schools and the forced sterilization of Indigenous people.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/08/2021 (352 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Two Tory backbenchers accuse their own government of infringing on Manitobans’ rights, including one who has seemingly compared the incoming vaccination mandate to residential schools and the forced sterilization of Indigenous people.

Radisson MLA James Teitsma’s comments on Facebook were the most provocative.

“Forcing Indigenous children to attend residential schools, sterilizing intellectually disabled and Indigenous women without consent (including the creation of eugenics boards), and sending Ukrainian- and Japanese-Canadians to interment (sic) camps, come to mind as some of the worst stains in our country’s brief history,” Teitsma wrote.

(FACEBOOK PHOTO) Radisson MLA James Teitsma's comments on Facebook were the most provocative.

“One thing these human rights violations have in common: they were popular and favoured by the public.”

Health Minister Audrey Gordon would not address Teitsma’s comments when asked if he had undermined the government.

“I have open and honest dialogue with all individuals about the importance of vaccination and keeping Manitobans safe,” she said, in response to questions from the Free Press.

Borderland MLA Josh Guenter also posted a letter saying his own government is “using a sledgehammer” that will send Mennonites “to the breadline,” as they will quit front-line jobs that will soon be limited to vaccinated people.

“The more the government thrashes about trying to get people to take the vaccine, the less inclined my constituents are to listen,” wrote Guenter, whose constituency has some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccine uptake in Canada.

Guenter argued the government is going back on its reopening plan, which was designed before the highly contagious delta variant took hold in Canada.

 

NDP health critic Uzoma Asagwara said Teitsma’s comments amount to misinformation.

“What boggles my mind is that he thought that that was an appropriate or smart thing to do. And it is really and truly, unfortunately, a reflection of this government continuing to just show Manitobans that they don’t want to lead during this pandemic,” Asagwara said.

Manitoba Liberal Leader Dougald Lamont said Teitsma should be ejected from the PC party for his “dangerous” comments.

“Nobody in government, no MLA, should be spreading misinformation like that,” he said.

“He’s actually putting people’s lives at risk and I’ll be blunt, he’s making people stupider, because who believes that?”

Manitoba’s three grand chiefs did not respond to a request for comment. Chiefs said this week they are still grieving over the mounting evidence of residential school graves.

Teitsma argued that forcing people to leave their jobs for being vaccine-hesitant will hurt economically marginalized groups and won’t convince people to get vaccinated.

“Canada cannot claim to be a tolerant and free society if it runs roughshod over the rights of a minority for the sake of the majority,” he wrote.

Teitsma argued his government’s vaccination push has achieved its goal of containing COVID-19 deaths from hundreds or thousands per year to a manageable death count.

“Just as dozens of Manitobans die each year from the flu, so dozens of Manitobans will die each year from COVID-19 for decades to come. I wish it were possible to prevent all these deaths, but it simply isn’t. Zero deaths is not an option.”

He raised the spectre of his government “telling churches to disallow certain individuals from attending worship,” though the province did not include religious gatherings in the list of public venues restricted to fully vaccinated people.

Both Teitsma and Guenter say they are fully vaccinated.

Teitsma claimed the government has relied too much on vaccinations to limit the risk of gatherings. Both opposition parties said that undercuts the public support needed to ensure a safe return to school.

“We’re talking about sharing misinformation that people will take at face value from an elected representative and that is incredibly harmful,” said Asagwara of the NDP.

“What he’s advocating is anarchy and lawlessness and a libertarian position on vaccines,” Lamont said, for the Liberals.

dylan.robertson@freepress.mb.ca

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

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Updated on Friday, August 27, 2021 8:55 PM CDT: Fixes typo.

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