A Canadian conservative politician has outraged many of his constituents after making comments comparing unvaccinated people to AIDS patients in the 1980s.
In a recent press conference, Jason Kenney, leader of the right-wing United Conservative Party and the Premier of the province of Alberta, compared the supposed stigmatization of unvaccinated people to the horrifying discrimination and ostracization that AIDS patients experienced in the AIDS epidemic's early years.
Kenney's comments have sparked outrage across Alberta and Canada as a whole. Hear his comments below.
"It's never OK to...stigmatize people in that way. In a way it kind of reminds me of the attitudes that circulated in North America in the mid-1980s about people with HIV.AIDS. That there's this notion that they have to be distanced for health reasons."
Kenney's comments came after he was asked about how polarizing the pandemic has been. Kenney, an anti-masker who recently overturned all of Alberta's COVID-19 safety protocols, didn't cite any actual incidents of mistreatment of unvaccinated people.
Rather, he focused on attitudes he's witnessed online, such as people saying they would not feel safe eating in a restaurant with unvaccinated people. Kenney said:
“That sentiment deeply concerns me. Treating fellow people as though they are somehow unclean..."
Missing from Kenney's comments was any acknowledgement of COVID-19 being an incredibly contagious airborne illness that spreads even more easily in confined spaces like restaurants.
Instead, Kenney compared the situation to AIDS, a virus that can only be spread through one's blood coming into contact with an infected person's blood, and the way people with the disease were treated in the 1980s. AIDS patients at that time were routinely fired from their jobs, denied medical treatment, and run out of their homes by acts of arson and other forms of violence.
In short, there is no comparison between AIDS patients in the 1980s and unvaccinated people in the 2020s, but clearly that didn't stop Kenney from saying there was.
As several people on Twitter pointed out, Kenney knows a few things about stigmatizing AIDS patients. During his time as a student at the University of San Francisco, Kenney led the charge for a law that would have barred AIDS patients' same-sex partners from visiting them in the hospital while they were dying.
You'd think someone with that black mark on their soul would be able to understand the distinctions between the stigmatization of AIDS patients and people not wanting to share space with people who refuse to take basic preventive measures against a deadly airborne virus.
As David Shepherd, one of Kenney's opposition party colleagues, put it:
“For him to evoke the memory of those who faced very real discrimination because of a disease they could not control – to compare that to individuals who choose not to get vaccinated, frankly it’s unconscionable and the premier should apologize.”
It was a sentiment many people on Twitter shared as Kenney's comments inspired disgust among many Canadians.
Kenney has since apologized for his comments.