Calgary UCP town hall on vaccines about ‘spreading misinformation,’ professor says

An upcoming UCP townhall is raising eyebrows in Alberta, with an apparent anti-vaccine agenda and its list of speakers. Henna Saeed has reaction to this controversial meeting.

A United Conservative Party (UCP) constituency association in Calgary is hosting a town hall on COVID-19 vaccines and children next month, claiming “excessive deaths” of kids are up 350 per cent in Alberta since 2021.

‘An Injection of Truth’ is being hosted by the Calgary-Lougheed Constituency Association on June 17 and says it will examine “why an excessive number of Alberta’s children are dying,” however, event organizers, UCP ministers, and the premier have failed to provide information on what exactly “excessive deaths” are when asked.

“This is classic false balance, is classic ‘both-sideism’ — in other words, they’re presenting a perspective that is fringe and — by the way — has been investigated, it’s not like these perspectives have been silenced and shown to be not support by the best available evidence,” explained Timothy Caulfield, a researcher and professor of health law and science policy at the University of Alberta. “They’re elevating it and legitimizing these perspectives in a way that makes them seem comparable to what the huge body of evidence actually says.”

He explains that events such as this are not innocuous.

“We know that false balance can do real harm, it can add doubt, it can add to vaccination hesitancy and so this is not just a benign issue,” Caulfield added.

Organizers are encouraging potential attendees — “remarkable doctors, scientists and researchers who know the answers” and those who have a child injured or killed by a vaccine — to “say the quiet part out loud” and “target the elephant in the room.”

The event’s page, on the United Conservative website, says the project is grassroots-activated.

Speakers currently scheduled for the event include David Speicher, who claims to have discovered DNA in COVID-19 vaccines, Dr. Eric Payne, an Alberta Children’s Hospital pediatrician who has been open about his opposition to the vaccine and his lack of vaccination himself, and former Edmonton doctor William Makis who has lost his license to practise, and among many other claims, has said vaccines cause “turbo cancer.”

The claims made by these and the other four individuals set to speak have all been disproven and deemed false by medical professionals.

“We know that many of the individuals that are participating in this event, that have been invited to speak have been discredited, have lost their license, and I know for them, they may hold it up as a badge of honour, but the reality is their perspective does not accord with what the science says,” Caulfield said.

After the formal town hall, attendees will be able to “mix and mingle” with speakers and Alberta MLAs, at an after party called ‘Politics and Popcorn.’

Calgary-Lougheed MLA Eric Bouchard tells CityNews the event is being organized by his constituency association and is just one of many being hosted.

“We have had several successful town halls about issues my constituents care about and they have all been incredibly well attended and well received,” he said in an emailed statement. “We always welcome diverse viewpoints and open dialogue because it’s important for people to listen to different ideas and perspectives, even if they disagree.”

Caulfield says this has proven not to be the case.

“It’s interesting because they try to cast this event as being open to different perspectives, meantime, they’re running smear campaigns against individuals in order to delegitimize their perspective,” he said.

Bouchard added that he owned a business and was “adversely affected” by mandates, lockdowns, and restrictions during the pandemic, and so he believes in advocating for a better approach to dealing with businesses during emergency situations.

Premier Danielle Smith says she isn’t involved in the event and doesn’t plan to attend. But, as part of the grassroots party process, members put forward and vote on policy at the UCP’s annual general meeting.

“Minister of Health, Adrianna LaGrange, will continue to work with public health experts to review the international evidence and the safety and efficacy of all vaccines,” the premier said. “It is important to note that the COVID-19 vaccine for children is not mandatory, and parents have the choice to decide what’s right for their own family.”

LaGrange echoed that same message when asked, and said any parent with questions about any immunizations for the child should talk to their primary care provider or call 811.

“The COVID-19 vaccine remains available for children, this has not changed since August 2022,” she said in an emailed statement. “It is not mandatory and parents have the choice to decide what’s right for their own family.”

“My colleagues come to me with a broad range of issues that are of concern to them and their constituents,” she continued. “As minister, I want to ensure my colleagues and their constituents feel heard while balancing that with advice from public health experts and international evidence.”

CityNews has also reached out to Alberta Health Services (AHS) for confirmation of claims made by the UCP CA on “excessive deaths” of children. AHS directed CityNews to the government, saying it is responsible for those statistics.

The Eventbrite website for the event had been removed as of Wednesday morning. CityNews has reached out to the company for comment.

Eventbrite’s Community Guidelines prohibit event organizers from posting content that contains, endorses, or perpetuates potentially harmful misinformation, including “scientifically or medically unsubstantiated health advice that may have detrimental effects of attendees’ health or public safety.”

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