Haldimand-Norfolk MP Leslyn Lewis is raising eyebrows at home and on Twitter by using her online platform to question the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.
Lewis also likened herself to civil rights activist Rosa Parks for objecting to the recently announced mandatory vaccination policy for MPs.
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“The media and the power structure expect me to sit in the back of the bus. I won’t!” Lewis tweeted on Oct. 23.
“They will try to paint me as a reckless lunatic in order to lynch me into silence. I will always tell Canadians the truth, and no bully or threats will succeed against us!”
In a series of tweets, Lewis appeared to take aim at a recent government policy requiring everyone physically working in the House of Commons, including MPs, be vaccinated against COVID-19 as of Nov. 22.
Lewis later commented on an article about Ottawa’s plan to provide millions of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine doses for children pending Health Canada approval.
“Never have Canadian children been used as shields for adults,” she lamented on Twitter.
“Parents question vaccinating kids 5-12 without long-term data, a low risk of fatality, and cautions echoed around the world, when the treatment neither prevents transmitting or getting the virus.”
Lewis did not cite any studies or sources for her claims. Scores of medical experts in Canada and abroad — including Haldimand-Norfolk’s new acting medical officer of health, Dr. Matt Strauss — agree that while no vaccine is 100 per cent effective, the approved COVID-19 vaccines greatly reduce the chance of contracting the disease and ending up in hospital.
Lewis declined to be interviewed for this story.
The MP’s comments seemingly equating her stance against vaccine mandates and disclosure of vaccination status with the civil rights movement drew the ire of observers on Twitter and in her riding.
“You are no Rosa Parks,” tweeted Norfolk County Councillor Kim Huffman, who told The Hamilton Spectator Lewis’s choice of language was “both inflammatory and completely reckless.”
“The truth is out there in terms of vaccination and the research into vaccinations,” Huffman said, adding she was “very dismayed” to see Lewis casting aspersions on the vaccine.
“We’ve spent a lot of time in getting people to be vaccinated, and to have someone tweet something so careless … it’s very disappointing,” said Huffman, who sits on the local board of health.
“We still have some individuals who are vaccine hesitant who look to elected representatives for guidance,” Huffman said. “With her Twitter handle being Dr. Leslyn Lewis, I think it’s important to note that she is not a medical doctor.”
Lewis holds a PhD in international law from Osgoode Hall Law School at York University.
Haldimand-Norfolk has risen from dead last to middle of the pack when it comes to vaccination rates among Ontario’s 34 health units, but health officials remain particularly concerned about unvaccinated residents in their mid-40s to late 50s.
Huffman “strongly encourages” those still on the fence to talk to their family doctors and “get all of the facts regarding the importance of the vaccination, and understand the risks to themselves and others if they’re not vaccinated.”
Lewis has refused to disclose her vaccination status, citing what in her view is the paramount importance of medical privacy. During the recent federal election campaign she would only say she was taking daily rapid COVID-19 tests.
She is one of approximately 40 Conservative MPs whose vaccination status is not publicly known.
Lewis was elected on Sept. 20.
J.P. Antonacci is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter based at the Hamilton Spectator. The initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.