In a series of tweets, the union representing Windsor-Essex paramedics suggest that people who support a vaccine mandate are “authoritarian” and have a “propensity for evil.”
The strongly worded tweets reject vaccine mandates, calling the policies an attack on freedom, say they are based on lies and tell people to oppose them.
CUPE local 2974 president James Jovanovic confirmed with CBC News that the tweets are legitimate and that he will not be deleting them. Jovanovic would not say who wrote or posted the tweets but said he is standing by them. He said the local is pro-vaccination, but is against having mandates put in place.
The tweet calling out those in favour of a mandate as being “authoritarian” and having a “propensity for evil” were said “ironically,” according to Jovanovic.
“The entire purpose is for that initial shock as the context of the entire thread is about doing away with divisiveness,” Jovanovic said.
Yet, the tweets appear to urge people to take a side by saying that those who are “too fearful to stand for freedom, will be the sacrificial pawns, used to protect the powerful” and follows that by saying “time will tell.”
Multiple times, the thread tells people that they were “lied to” and that people who have put public health measures in place have “ulterior motives.”
Canadian health expert Timothy Caulfield said the tweets have a “threatening” tone and that the misinformation in the thread can be quite harmful to the public.
In an emailed statement to CBC News, Essex-Windsor EMS said it does not support the tweets.
“They do not represent the position of Essex-Windsor EMS and the County of Essex, which have implemented a COVID-19 vaccine policy and safety protocols to protect the public and staff,” the statement from Essex-Windsor EMS chief Bruce Krauter reads.
Earlier in January, Essex-Windsor EMS had a number of staff off due to testing positive for the disease or being a close contact.
The thread of tweets was posted to the CUPE Paramedics of Windsor-Essex Twitter page around 12 p.m. on Thursday.
Jovanovic said more than 95 per cent of the local’s members are vaccinated, but polling has shown that many of them are against mandating vaccines.
While this isn’t directly related to the trucking convoy currently taking place across the country, which has truck drivers protesting vaccine mandates, Jovanovic said they using that to join in on the conversation around “individual rights.”
“The local as a whole is still going to stand up for what we believe to be right and that is against any type of medical segregation or medical tyranny,” he said.
Caulfield told CBC News that the tweets are “pretty shocking.”
“It’s a thread that seems to embrace conspiracy theories. It’s a thread that has a really threatening tone to it almost like there’s going to be retribution for those who have supported public health measures … it’s a pretty upsetting thread that I think can do real harm,” said Caulfield, who is also a professor at the University of Alberta.
He said typically this sort of “misinformation” comes from fringe groups and that what makes this unique, is that it’s coming from an official organization.
“It comes from paramedics. These are individuals that have seen the damage that COVID can do and so I think that this makes the misinformation embedded in that thread all the more harmful,” he said.
CUPE’s national office said in an emailed statement that its local unions have “considerable autonomy” when it comes to public messaging and that local leaders are accountable for what they post, not the national branch.