Canadian Anti-Hate Network
Canada’s Premiers often face criticism for their statements before and during their time in the public eye. A lesson Alberta’s Danielle Smith has been repeatedly learning since taking over the role last fall.
The most recent controversy came in the form of a podcast posted online in November. 10, 2021, almost a year before Smith became premier, during a conversation with Andrew Ruhland, founder of Calgary’s Integrated Wealth Management.
After Ruhland says that he believes the “personal liberties and freedoms” fought for in the Second World War are being handed away to “those who wish to control us,” Smith interjects with her own take on the matter.
“The political leaders standing on their soapbox pretending that they care about all the things you just talked about,” she tells the host. “Pretending they understand the sacrifice and not understanding that their actions are exactly the actions our brave men and women in uniform were fighting against.”
Smith then compares vaccinated people to those complicit with tyranny, referencing Hitler directly.
“I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to watch the Netflix series How to Become a Tyrant, but It starts with Hitler in the first episode and it’s absolutely appalling and shocking. One academic says ‘I know so many people,’ and they must have filmed this before COVID, ‘so many people would say they would not have succumbed to the charms of the tyrant. Somebody telling them that they have all the answers.’ And he said, ‘I guarantee you would.’ And that’s the test here is we’ve seen it.
“We have 75% of the public who say not only hit me but hit me harder and keep me away from those dirty unvaxxed,” Smith says.
“We’re already hearing of people being denied treatment for not being vaccinated, being taken off the organ donor list. What are we becoming?”
“It is diabolical."
She also began the conversation by remarking on her and Ruhland’s mutual choice to not wear a poppy for Remembrance Day.
“They ruined it for me this year,” Smith said, without specifying her particular grievance with the symbol.
During another portion of the show, Smith, in one breath, accuses the medical community of using a “military-like chain of command” during the pandemic and then suggests the military would be better suited to handle the matter.
“It’s got to be something more like a military chain of command, actually,” Smith said in the recording. “Military chain of command, yeah, there’s a top guy, but they give a lot of latitude to people in the field to make their own judgment.”
In response to the recent clip and accompanying criticism from the United Conservative Party’s political rivals, the Canadian Legion and doctors alike, Smith quickly apologized for the comparison to the events of the Second World War.
"As everyone knows, I was against the use of vaccine mandates during COVID," Smith said in a statement. "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."
Alberta NDP Leader Rachel Notley told reporters she was “utterly horrified” by the comparison.
“What we have here is a premier who is looking at over 75 per cent of Albertans who stepped up, who followed the science and respected the requests that were made by public health officials to protect themselves, their neighbours and Alberta's most vulnerable citizens and everybody who needed our hospitals,’ Notley said, “and she's comparing those Albertans, 75 per cent of them, to the architects of an antisemitic genocide.”
But Wait, There’s More
Smith has been open about her opposition to vaccine mandates since before her tenure as premier. This stance also has resulted in open and perceived statements of support for actions and figures from the COVID street protests that culminated in the border blockades and occupation of Ottawa in 2022.
Before running for leadership of the UCP, Smith ran a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for a lawsuit that she said would push for the “Right to Try Treatments for COVID.” While raising over $100,000, the suit did not move ahead and Smith says she donated the money not spent on lawyers to the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).
The JCCF is a legal advocacy organization that describes itself as a “voice for freedom in Canada’s courtrooms.” Issues the organization has become involved in have included legal challenges against Gay-Straight alliances in Alberta schools. More recently, they have been fighting tickets issued for violating health restrictions and had lawyers participating in the Public Inquiry into Use of Emergencies Act in 2022.
In 2021, the founder of JCCF, John Carpay, hired a private investigation firm to follow a Manitoba judge, reportedly to gain evidence of Chief Justice Glenn Joyal violating health mandates.
Press Progress also recently reported on an interview Smith gave with the Western Standard in February 2022 where she endorses the blockade of the Montana-Alberta border.
Appearing on a live stream, Smith is introduced as the former leader of the Wild Rose Party and “well-known conservative commentator” for the episode “What’s going on in Ottawa, In Coutts, and behind the scenes?”
Praising the “truckers” then occupying the streets of Ottawa and blocking the border crossing near Coutts, AB, Smith voices concerns about if there would be an end to the vaccine mandates.
“Are we going to get to a point where to be able to get a bank account you're going to have to be vaccinated because you won't be able to walk in the door?” Smith wondered on the stream. “I have no idea, but the fact that this is the line in the sand that's been drawn because the federal government has so much more planned, they have so much more coming, and I think this is the reason why we want to see this win.
“We want to see it win so that they don't end up rolling out the full plan and we want to see it win in Coutts.
Since the release of the Press Progress article, Smith appears to stand by the statement
“I think the win for Albertans was getting rid of mandates,” she said on 630 CHED Radio.
Street preacher Artur Pawlowski has been another sore spot for Smith. A phone call, recorded by Pawlowski and released by the provincial NDP, reveals Smith saying she was talking to prosecutors about his case.
During the call, Pawlowski said he was appealing to Smith for help, citing a previous promise made by the premier to pardon those charged with violating COVID-19 health restrictions.
The premier points out that she has learned there is not a legal mechanism for her to grant clemency, but adds that she has been talking to prosecutors “almost weekly” since coming to power. She also denies Pawlowski’s assertions that the Minister of Justice was driving the case against him.
Since the release of the recording, Smith has denied any wrongdoing, but critics say her statements in the call indicate potential interference.
Last week, Pawlowski was found guilty of two charges for inciting protesters to continue blockading the border crossing near Coutts. Smith did not comment on the verdict when asked by reporters.
Far from the only controversy involving the prosecutions of individuals involved with the Coutts protests, Smith stated twice, once to Rebel News and another time during a press conference, that she asked Crown prosecutors about charges related to COVID-19 health violations.
"We do have an independent justice department and independent Crown prosecutors, and I have asked them to consider all charges under the lens of 'is it in the public interest to pursue?'" Smith said to reporters gathered in Edmonton in January.
"I ask them on a regular basis, as new cases come out, is it in the public interest to pursue and is there a reasonable likelihood of conviction?"
The premier later said that her words were “imprecise.”
Since then, the CBC reports that a staffer from Smith’s office contacted the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service. The emails reportedly asked for briefings on the cases of those charged at Coutts and emails that followed included criticism of the charges.
Smith's office responded to the news first by saying they would investigate and then threatening to sue the CBC over the reporting.
At the time of writing, the news agency reports no legal action has been taken.