OTTAWA — Conservative party leadership candidate Scott Aitchison is condemning Leslyn Lewis' message to members last week about the Nuremberg Code and medical experimentation as nothing but a "dog whistle" to COVID-19 vaccine critics.
Aitchison made the comments in a missive sent to party members Thursday, with less than two weeks before they must return their ballots for a new leader by the Sept. 6 deadline.
Aitchison, an MP first elected for the party in 2019 and again last year, entered the leadership race as a largely unknown figure.
Throughout the race, the rural Ontario representative has campaigned on a message of restoring decency in politics at a time when leaders of different stripes have been accused of stoking division.
He referred to those values in Thursday's message, saying he has heard from Canadians who were confused and "appalled" at the comparison Lewis drew between contemporary issues and the Holocaust.
In her message, Lewis provided a timeline of moments in history when humans have been subjected to experimentation, including some Indigenous children in residential schools who were malnourished.
She wrote that, "even in modern times the tenets of informed consent and voluntary participation in scientific experiments, can be easily undermined by even our modern governments."
Although Lewis didn't mention COVID-19 in last week's note about the Nuremberg Code — a set of research guidelines established after the Second World War, in which Nazi doctors carried out inhumane experiments on prisoners — Aitchison says some opposed to COVID-19 vaccinations have described requirements to get one to the horrors of Nazi Germany.
"Leslyn’s email was a dog whistle to these people so loud that it sounds more like a freight train’s horn," Aitchison said.
"Let me be clear — being offered a vaccine that prevents serious illness and our governments’ responses to this pandemic are not the same as being tortured in a Nazi concentration camp."
Lewis has not responded to a request for comment about her email and Aitchison's criticism of its content.
Aitchison also touched on a recent decision by the Liberal government to cut ties with a group hired to do anti-racism work after it was discovered one of its consultants sent out an antisemitic tweet.
Many Conservative MPs have roundly criticized the government, questioning what kind of vetting occurred.
"If we want to actually deliver on the promise of better government, we as a party must do better as well," Aitchison said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 25, 2022.
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press