Moose Jaw, Sask., newspaper removes editorial comparing COVID-19 restrictions to Holocaust

·3 min read
Nurse clinician Heather Witzel-Garnhum prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Regina General Hospital in Regina, Sask., last December. A newspaper in nearby Moose Jaw, Sask., removed a recently published an editorial comparing COVID-19 restrictions to the Holocaust.  (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press - image credit)
Nurse clinician Heather Witzel-Garnhum prepares a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Regina General Hospital in Regina, Sask., last December. A newspaper in nearby Moose Jaw, Sask., removed a recently published an editorial comparing COVID-19 restrictions to the Holocaust. (Michael Bell/The Canadian Press - image credit)

A Moose Jaw, Sask., newspaper has removed an editorial it published comparing COVID-19 restrictions to the Holocaust.

The piece, written by Moose Jaw Today senior editor Joan Ritchie, appeared in the hard copy edition of the free paper distributed to Moose Jaw homes over the past several days and published online.

In the editorial, Ritchie questions the number of deaths attributed to COVID-19 and laments the loss of freedom caused by the restrictions.

Medical experts, local residents and others are calling the editorial reprehensible, irresponsible and dangerous.

"It's wrong. It's just wrong," retired Moose Jaw nurse manager Terry Jago said. "We're a year into the pandemic. We can't have people in our homes. It does feel pretty awful at times, but that doesn't mean it's not real."

Editorial removed from website

Ritchie wrote that the limits on worship services show an anti-religious bias at all levels of government. She then compared the restrictions to the Holocaust.

"Sort of reminds oneself of what Hitler did to the Jews, and where worshippers are going from here, doesn't it? Lockdowns in homes, then lockdowns in hotels, then lockdowns in facilities, then lockdowns in internment camps?" the editorial reads.

The editorial was removed from the newspaper's website late Sunday after a wave of online criticism. Jago said she and others complained directly to Ritchie and the newspaper, but have not heard back.

The newspaper published a statement from owner Glacier Media online, saying the editorial did not meet its standards.

"The editorial inappropriately compared pandemic-related lockdowns to the Holocaust. Glacier Media expresses its regret for this error," read the statement.

Moose Jaw Today publisher Rob Ritchie said in an email that the paper will be reviewing the matter before making any comment.

Critics say statement not enough

Jago said the article is shameful on many levels in that it minimizes the Holocaust, and could also cause more sickness and death in her community.

COVID-19 variants are spreading rapidly across southern Saskatchewan, including in Moose Jaw.

She said a brief "statement of regret" is not enough and that she's talked to one business owner who's considering pulling their advertising money until more is done to make things right.

University of Saskatchewan microbiology professor Kyle Anderson called the Moose Jaw Today editorial reprehensible and dangerous.
University of Saskatchewan microbiology professor Kyle Anderson called the Moose Jaw Today editorial reprehensible and dangerous. (Submitted by Kyle Anderson)

University of Saskatchewan microbiology professor Kyle Anderson has been tracking the rapid rise of variant cases in Moose Jaw.

He said Ritchie is not simply misinformed or ignorant. He said it appears she's deliberately distorting facts and history to make her point.

Anderson likened the column to propaganda and said it could make things worse.

"I don't think the apology is sufficient. You shouldn't be able to make these inflammatory comparisons to Nazi Germany if you want to be taken seriously as a publication," Anderson said.

Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie encouraged all residents to follow the advice of provincial health experts and said he'll get vaccinated as soon as it's his turn.

Tolmie said he doesn't read Ritchie's column and he declined to comment on the Holocaust comparison.

"I don't like to get into the middle of debates concerning people's opinions," Tolmie said.

"I have a job to do. There's lots of opinions out there. Our focus is on getting us through this pandemic and keeping our community as safe as we can."

Saskatchewan Opposition Leader Ryan Meili, who is originally from Moose Jaw, criticized the editorial.

"Comparison of evidence-based public health measures to the Holocaust like the opinion recently expressed ... are deeply inappropriate and offensive," the NDP leader said on Twitter.

A poll underway on Moose Jaw Today's website shows more than 80 per cent of respondents are taking precautions to guard against the spread of COVID-19 variants.