In resurfaced video, Danielle Smith ties vaccinated Albertans to those who fall for tyrants
Danielle Smith, Alberta's UCP leader, is apologizing for past comments on talk radio and podcasts after a video resurfaced Sunday on social media in which she suggests the 75 per cent of the public who received a vaccine fell for the "charms of a tyrant," specifically referencing Adolf Hitler.
The clip came from a podcast published on Nov. 10, 2021, before Smith became premier, with the Calgary-based Integrated Wealth Management and its founder, Andrew Ruhland.
The podcast is more than 90 minutes long and the relevant section is found near the end, where the conversation turns to the subject of scientific and medical consensus.
Ruhland, who said he is the son of Dutch immigrants who survived World War II, claimed Canadians' personal liberties were being violated by public health rules. He was not wearing a poppy during the podcast, recorded a day before Remembrance Day, which Smith noticed.
"They ruined it for me this year," Smith said of poppies. "The political leaders, standing on their soapbox, pretending that they care about all the things you just talked about.
"Pretending they understand the sacrifice, and not understanding that their actions are exactly the actions that our brave men and women in uniform are standing against."
WATCH | Smith in a podcast ties vaccinated Albertans to those who fall for tyrants:
Smith then mentions the Netflix series How to Become a Tyrant, specifically referencing the episode featuring Adolf Hitler.
Smith recalled an academic saying that so many people would say that they would not succumb to the charms of a tyrant or somebody telling them they have all the answers.
"And he says, 'I guarantee you would,'" Smith said.
"That's the test here, is we've seen it. We have 75 per cent of the public who say not only hit me, but hit me harder, and keep me away from those dirty unvaxxed."
Apology for 'any offensive language' in past career
The NDP quickly seized on the video Monday. Speaking at a campaign event focused on seniors, NDP Leader Rachel Notley called Smith's comments "utterly horrifying."
She said Smith was referencing the 75 per cent of Albertans who followed scientific advice, as well as requests made by public health officials, "to protect themselves, their neighbours and Alberta's most vulnerable citizens and everybody who needed our hospitals."
"She's comparing those Albertans, 75 per cent of them, to the architects of an antisemitic genocide," Notley said.
Dave Prisco, director of communications with the United Conservative Party, sent a statement to CBC News on Monday, attributed to Smith.
"As everyone knows, I was against the use of vaccine mandates during COVID," Smith writes. "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, Israel and our veterans, and I apologize for any offensive language used regarding this issue made while on talk radio or podcasts during my previous career."
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."
In a statement, a spokesperson with the Alberta-Northwest Territories Command of the Royal Canadian Legion said the poppy is a symbol of remembrance of those who have served Canada and made the "supreme sacrifice in the name of democracy."
"It has no place in politics," reads the statement. "The sacrifices made by those, whom the poppy represents, have safeguarded the rights and freedoms that Canadians enjoy today."
Smith previously wrote about Nuremberg Code
In response to a request for comment, the Calgary Jewish Federation said it was important that "our community is not used as a wedge between political parties."
However, the federation did note it made clear comments about such comparisons in 2021, including in a March 2021 Calgary Herald opinion article.
At that time, the organization was responding to another Calgary Herald opinion article, in which Smith wrote that a "national discussion" was taking place surrounding whether people should be forced to take mRNA vaccines.
Smith suggested that would fly in the face of the Nuremberg Code. The Nuremberg Code is a set of principles established after the Second World War stipulating that people must choose if they want to receive experimental medical treatment.
"The medical trials that Smith alluded to were performed without the consent of the victims, who suffered indescribable pain, mutilation, permanent disability or even death as a result," wrote Lisa Libin, vice-president of the Calgary Jewish Federation, in response.
"They were sadistic procedures, often with torture as the primary objective. Invoking the horrors perpetrated by Josef Mengele to one's reservations about the vaccine rollout is not only appalling but completely insulting to our community and others who suffered at the hands of the Nazis."
Last fall, the UCP board disqualified a potential candidate who had compared vaccine passports to policies enacted by Hitler and the Nazi regime.