Danielle Smith calls unvaccinated ‘most discriminated-against group’ in her lifetime

Alberta’s new premier, Danielle Smith, wants to shake up the province’s healthcare system and protect those who were not vaccinated for COVID-19, calling them “the most discriminated-against group” in her lifetime.

After being sworn into office Tuesday morning, Smith, while speaking with the media, pressed on the use of the sovereignty act and declared the unvaccinated as the most oppressed.

“[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.”

Smith says she doesn’t “take away from any of those groups,” referring to 2SLGBTQI+ and other marginalized people, but wants the public to know “that we are not going to create a segregated society on the basis of a medical choice.”

At her swearing-in ceremony at Government House, Smith added, “Albertans have been through so much over these last two and a half years. 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’s discrimination comments slammed

Smith’s controversial claims had many social media users taking aim at the new premier Tuesday.

A number of people leveled harsh criticism, pointing to historic discrimination of Indigenous people and other groups in Canada.

“Residental schools were still open in her lifetime. Generations of Indigenous children were stolen. Thousands died,” one post reads.

“Imagine saying this at the same time women in Iran are dying for equal rights,” another person wrote.

“Of the things I could say, I choose to focus on demonstrating to this premier the work that our city continues to do around anti-racism, Indigenous relations, Holocaust remembrance, allyship with the LGBTQ2S+ community & equity-based awareness. In other words, work that matters,” Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said on Twitter.

“It’s hard to remember/imagine anything more offensive to the lives we lost in the pandemic and to the communities that have endured histories of systemic discrimination in our country than what Danielle Smith just said,” Dr. Andrew Baback Boozary, a physician in Ontario, added in response to Smith’s statement.

“These words are shameful and a slap in the face to those who have experienced real harm,” Nagwan Al-Guneid, an Alberta NDP candidate, tweeted. “Living under a dictatorship in Yemen taught me the value of democracy and having the freedom of choice. What a privilege it is to never have learned such a lesson, Danielle.”

Former Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson also chimed in, writing, “I refuse to be embarrassed that I am from Alberta.”

“But I am embarrassed and troubled that this is what our Premier is putting out into the world today on our behalf,” he continued. “Having represented over a million Albertans, I know that these are not the prevailing views in our community.”

NDP calls for Smith to apologize

Smith’s comments also drew criticism from NDP Justice Critic Irfan Sabir, who said they show that “she is not ready to lead for all Albertans.”

“For any Alberta who [has] faced actual discrimination, this is a deeply offensive comment. It is beyond pale that Smith can think of a group more discriminated against them anti-vaxxers,” Sabir told CityNews.

“This province belongs to everyone. And in last couple of years in particular, we have seen hate crime on the rise. We have seen actually people getting attacked just because of their faith because of their color.”

Sabir and the Alberta NDP are calling on Smith to apologize for her controversial remarks, saying they are “deeply divisive and offensive.”

“Whether she thought through it or it was a slip of tongue, [it] clearly shows that she’s not there to govern for all our burdens,” Sabir said.


‘When they fail to meet targets and fail to meet direction, you change the management’

The campaign that Smith ran was focused on two main areas: the sovereignty act and protecting the rights of those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She says she will change the Human Rights Act.

When asked about Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Smith said she would look for a different approach as the COVID-19 response has changed.

“I appreciate the work that Dr. Deena Hinshaw has done, but I think that we are in a new phase where we are now talking about treating coronavirus as endemic, as we do with influenza. So I will be developing a new team of public health advisers,” Smith said.

Hinshaw and others with AHS remain for the time being, but Smith has indicated that she would seek a new management team by the end of the year.

Smith said AHS botched the job during the pandemic by not fulfilling cabinet direction to increase capacity as hospitalizations soared, while also implementing vaccine rules that depleted staffing levels.

“When they fail to meet targets and fail to meet direction, you change the management. And so that’s what we’re going to do,” said Smith. “My intention would be to have a new governance structure in place within 90 days.”

READ MORE: Danielle Smith sworn in as Alberta premier

She says that “reinforcements are coming” to frontline workers.

Smith pointed the finger at AHS management and said frontline workers need support and have been hindered due to its actions with mandatory vaccines.

“We cannot continue understaffing our hospitals and then forcing our frontline workers to work mandatory overtime and be called in on days off and have to cancel their holidays,” Alberta’s 19th premier said.

“That’s been the situation in the last two and a half years and a lot of that problem was created by policies and Alberta Health Services and having mandatory vaccinations.”

Now-former Premier Jason Kenney and Smith sparred publicly during the leadership campaign. He characterized her core promise to create an Alberta sovereignty act to reject federal laws and court decisions as “nuts,” saying it would create political and economic turmoil in the country.

Smith said she hasn’t heard directly from Kenney since her victory last Thursday.

“I reached out to him and he has not accepted my invitation for a meeting,” she said. “I think the premier needs a little bit of time and I’m prepared to give him a little bit of time. It’s a big adjustment.”

Smith seeking legislature seat in Brooks-Medicine Hat

Smith doesn’t have a seat in the legislature but announced over the weekend that she will run in a by-election to fill a vacant seat in Brooks-Medicine Hat in southern Alberta.

Elections Alberta has called the byelection for Nov. 8. The earliest Smith can be in the legislature is Nov. 29.

Smith was criticized heavily for the sovereignty act by her critics, with critics from the UCP and the NDP calling the act unconstitutional and untenable.

The premier went back and forth on what the sovereignty act meant throughout the campaign and ultimately said that the supreme court holds the final say.


In Calgary, opposition NDP Leader Rachel Notley said she and justice critic Kathleen Ganley have written to every UCP caucus member and asked them to oppose it in person in the legislature.

“If they were speaking the truth on the leadership contest trail, the bottom line is they cannot allow this bill to pass. It is time to put province before party and do the right thing,” said Notley.

Smith will serve as intergovernmental affairs minister and plans to announce a revised cabinet on Oct. 21.

The next general election is set for May 29 and Smith has said she won’t call an earlier vote.

-With files from Joey Chini and The Canadian Press.

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