Mon. Aug 15th, 2022

Belle Jarniewski leaned back from her computer and sewed with anger after she finished watching a video on Reddit showing a Winnipeg restaurateur accosting public health enforcement officials.

“I’m still shaking after listening to that rant. It was incredible,” she said.

The video shows Shea Ritchie, the owner of Chaise Lounge locations on Corydon Avenue and Provencher Boulevard, talking to officers who give him tickets on Sept. 24 to allow diners who choose not to be vaccinated to eat inside his restaurant.

“If they are so dangerous, should we not identify them with something bright, like a yellow star?” Ritchie says in the video, which he filmed and posted on his personal Facebook page, and which has since circulated on social media.

“Why don’t you put them in a camp until they finally comply?”

Belle Jarniewski, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Center in western Canada, says it is ‘unintentional’ to compare vaccine mandates and passports and other COVID-19 restrictions with the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. (Trevor Brine / CBC)

Jarniewski, executive director of the Jewish Heritage Center and member of the Canadian delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, said this type of rhetoric has become more violent during the pandemic.

“We have seen these anti-waxer protests trying to compare the limitations of COVID with the Holocaust,” she said. “I have to say he has gone much further than anyone I have personally seen or heard of.”

Jarniewski is the daughter of two Holocaust survivors. Her mother survived the Auschwitz concentration camp, Jarniewski said, and her father was taken to six different concentration camps.

“To suggest that these limitations are somehow, form or form, comparable to the suffering of what happened to the Jews during the Holocaust is unconvincing. It is also a distortion of history,” she said.

“The comparison is disgusting.”

Anti-Semitic rhetoric emerged during pandemic protests

Although Jarniewski found Ritchie’s comments to be a particularly extreme version, they are representative of what appears to be a common belief among an edge of those strongly opposed to COVID-19 restrictions: that vaccination mandates and passports and other rules for slowing down the spread of coronavirus is similar to the way the Nazis abused Jews and other ethnic groups.

Across Canada, some protesters have called public health orders genocide, worn yellow stars that Jews were forced to wear in Nazi-occupied Europe, and even participated in protests with pictures of Anne Frank, the Jewish teenager who died in a Nazi concentration camp, and whose diaries were posthumously published and read around the world.

Protesters in Calgary held signs comparing the situation of Jewish victims of the Holocaust to workers being asked by their employers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 (and who may have access to medical or religious exemptions) at a September protest. (Anis Heydari / CBC)

CBC News spoke to Ritchie via text message about the video and what happened in his restaurant. When asked about getting a fine for violating public health orders, he said it was done in an attempt to “honor [those who died in the Holocaust] by taking personal responsibility for never ensuring. “

“We have suspended charter rights and it may well happen again.”

Conspiracy stories share similarities

Some of the loudest protesters against vaccine passports and other pandemic measures have used or have used anti-Semitic rhetoric in the past.

Toronto’s Chris (Sky) Saccoccia, for example, who has been arrested in Winnipeg for violating public health orders, has a record for doing so, says retired sociologist and hate group researcher Helmut-Harry Loewen.

Chris ‘Sky’ Saccoccia, leader of the COVID-19 conspiracy movement, has made numerous comments downplaying the Holocaust. (Evan Mitsui / CBC)

“Those who accept aspects of a conspiracy narrative tend to turn to other conspiracy theories,” Loewen said in an email.

“In the case of the COVID-19 conspiracy movement, some of the most prominent leaders — especially Chris Sky — have a record for claiming that the number of Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide is inaccurate.”

He has also quoted from Adolf Hitler My struggle on his Facebook page and called parts of it “bang on, like he had a crystal ball into the future” in a 2014 post, according to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, an agency that monitors and researches hate groups.

Saccoccia once again questioned the number of people who died during the Holocaust in an interview with Rebel News in July, storming out midway after accusing the host of suggesting he is a Holocaust denier and “feeding every story they use to attack me. “

CBC News contacted Saccoccia for comment on this story, but has not yet received a response.

Yellow vest, anti-Muslim movements shifted focus to COVID

The Canadian anti-hate network said the kind of rhetoric now being shown did not start 18 months ago when the pandemic was declared.

Executive Director Evan Balgord argues that it is a development from previous movements associated with various causes that is seen as combating the erosion of individual rights and freedoms.

Some, he said, have been affiliated with the far right, which has been sowing disagreement for years.

The network says some anti-Muslim groups, for example, began to press a story about violating “sharia law”, the influx of foreign terrorists into Canada and a number of other unfounded fears following a proposal to address Islamophobia and other forms of systemic racism , known as the M-103, was performed in the House of Commons in 2016.

“There were no sharia laws and sharia courts, and all the things they were afraid to joke about did not come to anything, so they needed a new problem,” he said.

Yellow vest protesters are holding a rally in Red Deer, Alta., In February 2019. The Canadian anti-hate network says some members of this movement are now spreading conspiratorial comparisons between COVID measures and the Nazi era. (Dave Rae / CBC)

That was when some in the far-right movement shifted their attention to the yellow western movement. It began in France as a populist protest against economic inequality and rising gas prices, but spread to Canada and other countries and eventually included a wide range of complaints, including opposition to illegal immigration.

Balgord says anti-hate network surveillance of various groups suggests that at least one organization, Action4Canada, and several large social media individuals who helped spearhead protests against the M-103 were involved in yellow vests. protests and now are among the most influential opponents of pandemic restrictions.

Saccoccia, for example, was involved in the Yellow West movement and is now against lockdowns and other pandemic restrictions, he said.

“They really set the agenda,” he said. “The right has already had an established propaganda machine. It has its podcasts; it has its shows online, it has its online groups. It knows how to do this.”

Graffiti on a building in Toronto alludes to conspiracy theories that the COVID-19 pandemic is a detailed hoax. (Bruce Barrett / CBC)

Balgord acknowledges that most people who oppose COVID-19 restrictions are not part of the far right, but can simply share some concerns about pandemic measures and were inadvertently caught in a web of misinformation.

Political message not immune

Some of the rhetoric surrounding pandemic measures has also crept into political messages promoted by candidates from the populist People’s Party of Canada during the federal election campaign.

PPC candidates in Manitoba and BC compared vaccination mandates to violations of the Nuremburg Code, a set of ethical research principles developed in response to unethical medical experiments and atrocities in the Nazi era.

The party’s leader, Maxime Bernier, also received criticism from anti-hate groups when he used the phrase “When tyranny becomes law, revolution becomes our connection with pandemic restrictions and the emergence of what he calls an “authoritarian” government.

This phrase is similar to one used by members of militia group Three Percenters – some of whom participated in the storming of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on 6 January.

A spokesman for Bernier told CBC News in an email to “get lost” when reached for comment.

‘I’m glad they did not have to experience this’

Jarniewski’s parents died decades ago, but she says they would have condemned any comparison between the pandemic and the Holocaust.

She is doing what she can to counteract this by educating people about the Holocaust and pushing for stricter anti-hate laws in Canada.

“I’ve often said that you know, just as hard as it is to have lost my parents so long ago, I’m glad they did not have to experience this to hear this kind of hatred again.”

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