By Mike Renzella
The Haldimand Press
HALDIMAND—Newly-elected MP for Haldimand-Norfolk Leslyn Lewis, who has drawn much attention for her views on the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine and her refusal to state her vaccination status, issued a statement last week touching on a number of vaccine-related concerns.
“The conversation around COVID, vaccines, vax-passes, and everything surrounding it has become incredibly divisive and emotional,” began the statement. “The fact that we have become emotional makes a lot of sense. After all, virtually all of us have known someone who has been impacted negatively in the last year.”
The Haldimand Press has previously reached out to the MP to offer clarification on her comments, including to respond to Haldimand-Norfolk Vaccine Task Force Lead, Sarah Page, who said following Lewis’ tweets on the subject, “Anytime we see someone who is seen as a trusted or respected member of the public come out with language that is anti-vax or possibly not based on science, we do see some response through social media channels continuing the spread of that information beyond what we hope.”
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole was asked about Lewis’ comments at a press conference earlier this month, as well as comments made by other elected officials in the Conservative party. The issue has proven divisive for the party, with some MPs, including Lewis, Niagara West MP Dean Allison, and Sarnia-Lambton MP Marilyn Gladu, publicly sharing viewpoints that do not align with public health recommendations related to COVID and vaccines.
Gladu appeared on CTV’s ‘Question Period’ program, where she said that COVID was similar to polio, but it doesn’t pose as significant a risk in terms of “deaths or disabilities.” Allison has hosted broadcasts with scientists who have compared the COVID vaccine’s efficacy against natural immunity.
“It’s a great example of why members of Parliament, of all stripes, should let the professionals, let the public health officials, let the physicians, answer questions about efficacy of vaccines or provincial programs on vaccination,” said O’Toole. “Let me be crystal clear: the Conservative party encourages people to be vaccinated.”
Lewis’ recent statement doubles down on the sentiments expressed in previous tweets she made about the vaccine, which focus on the right to turn down the vaccine.
“We encourage people to ask questions about those solutions without the fear of being ostracized and demonized,” read the statement. “Several people have argued that I should not have an opinion on the vaccine mandate issue because my ‘doctorate is not in medicine’. To that, I simply say that my doctorate is in law, and as this is a discussion on ‘rights’ it is indeed a conversation that I feel is very much within my purview.”
As of November 22, all MPs were required under mandate to be fully vaccinated, unless exempted, in order to enter the House of Commons. Lewis maintained the privacy of her vaccination status, leaving her ability to participate in parliament in question. The Press requested clarification from MP Lewis on her attendance ahead of time, but did not receive a response. However, O’Toole stated November 19 that all 119 Conservative MPs had either been fully vaccinated or had received exemptions, meaning they could all attend the House of Commons.
Lewis’ statement to the press focused on the topic of vaccinating children, which is set to begin shortly following the approval of the Pfizer vaccine for those aged 5-11.
“Parents without medical training are still entitled to ask questions about medical procedures involving their children and … I am obligated to listen to their concerns and find ways to address their questions,” she said. “This debate is truly about whether we as a society are going to respect a parent’s right to exercise the ultimate responsibility for the well-being of their children.”
She called it a “large and inappropriate leap” to go “from loving your neighbour to telling them that they don’t have the right to respect the personal and confidential health recommendations of their family doctor.”
Lewis claims to have received calls from across the country, with some stating that they “went against their doctor’s advice” and got vaccinated because they “felt pressured by society, or coerced through the threat of losing their jobs.”
“Parents know what’s best for their children, and governments can never replace the protection of loving parents,” said Lewis.
See her full statement on Page 5.