Jewish leaders slam Premier Smith for her 2021 remarks about COVID vaccinations and the Holocaust

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith

By Deborah Shatz

(AJNews) – The Alberta Election will be held on May 29 and the rhetoric is heating up. Earlier this week, a video from 2021 resurfaced that featured Alberta Premier Danielle Smith comparing Albertans who had been vaccinated against COVID-19 with supporters of Nazi Germany.

In the November 2021 video, filmed 6 months before Smith began her run for leader of the UCP, she discussed watching a Netflix documentary How to Become a Tyrant, and drew a parallel between the majority of Albertans who received the COVID-19 vaccine and supporters of Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.

She suggested that the “75 percent of the public” who received a COVID vaccine “succumbed to the charms of a tyrant,” specifically referencing Adolf Hitler. (The figure in Alberta is actually over 90%).

The Premier’s remarks in the resurfaced video were met with condemnation from NDP Leader Rachel Notley who called Smith’s comments “utterly horrifying.”

Notley said that invoking Nazi Germany when discussing Albertans who took the COVID-19 shot is evidence why Albertans can’t trust Smith’s leadership.

“She’s comparing those [vaccinated] Albertans… to the architects of an antisemitic genocide,” Notley said. “Some comments demonstrate a set of values that no level of apology can ever make up for.”

In response to the resurfaced video, Smith issued a carefully worded statement to explain her comments, “As everyone knows, I was against the use of vaccine mandates during COVID,” she stated.

“However, the horrors of the Holocaust are without precedent, and no one should make any modern-day comparisons that minimize the experience of the Holocaust and suffering under Hitler, nor the sacrifice of our veterans.

“I have always been and remain a friend to the Jewish community [and] Israel and I apologize for any offensive language used regarding this issue made while on talk radio or podcasts during my previous career.”

She added that Covid-19 was a divisive issue and “I would hope we can all move on to talk about issues that currently matter to Albertans and their families.”

It is well documented that Premier Smith is herself vaccinated.

National Jewish organizations condemned the 2021 remarks and reminded Albertans about how offensive and disturbing the comments are.

The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, a Canadian Jewish human rights organization, says Smith’s apology “doesn’t fix the harm caused.”

“Holocaust comparisons are inappropriate, disrespectful to the victims and minimize one of the darkest times in human history – which the Jewish community has been outspoken about since the start of the pandemic,” the organization said of the comments.

B’nai Brith Canada also tweeted a response, saying its position remains clear. “There is no justification for politicians to make contemporaneous comparisons to the Nazi regime,” the tweet read. “Our leaders must do better.”

Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, said Smith was either “wilfully ignorant or is in dire need of participating in our workshops on understanding the roots of antisemitism.”

“No, premier, those who followed science were not like Hitler and other tyrants,” he wrote on Twitter. “Claiming such is to minimize and distort the Holocaust. Six million Jews, amongst them 1.5 million children, were mass murdered by Hitler and his ideology. Millions of other innocents were also murdered, premier.”

The Calgary Jewish Community responded to the video and subsequent statement by Smith by saying, “We are aware of the 2021 podcast that has resurfaced. We feel it is important to note to our community that we made clear comments about these comparisons back when they were made including via an op-ed developed by our current president, Lisa Libin.

“In today’s campaign climate it is important that our community is not used as a wedge between political parties and with this, we will not be commenting further on this issue at this time.”

Unfortunately, the 2021 video was not the only time that (not yet) Premier Smith referenced the Holocaust and COVID vaccines. Libin’s op/ed was in response to a 2021 Calgary Herald column written by Smith in which she likened COVID vaccinations to the torturous experiments conducted by Nazis in concentration camps.

In the past, the UCP has not tolerated theses type of comments. In November 2022, the UCP board disqualified a potential candidate who had compared vaccine passports to policies enacted by Hitler and the Nazi regime.

And in 2020 president of Alberta Federation of Labour Gil McGowan was vilified for comparing the UCP government to Nazi Germany. He later apologized for his remarks that the UCP was adopting tactics pioneered by the Nazis and being implemented (by) right-wing authoritarians today.”

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