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Alberta politicians backtrack after retweets

Last Updated Jan 28, 2020 at 8:04 am MDT

CALGARY (CityNews) – A pair of politicians are backing away from a controversial tweet they both retweeted, which implies a link between immigrants and refugees entering Canada and the deadly coronavirus.

Calgary City Councillor Sean Chu and Alberta’s Minister of Seniors and Housing Josephine Pon, both Conservatives, retweeted the message which contained a reference to and picture of Roxham Road, a popular crossing for asylum seekers coming from the US.

The tweet was originally published by author Bill Tufts.

“I do not think it’s fair to link this to immigration, refugees or asylum seekers in any way,” said Leah Hamilton from Mount Royal University. “There’s no evidence that refugees or asylum seekers are likely to transmit this virus.”

The tweet also targets Prime Minister Justin Trudeau but Hamilton said this goes well beyond partisan politics.

“When politicians engage in this type of rhetoric and represent asylum seekers in this way, they perpetuate negative attitudes about asylum seekers and refugees.”

The retweets have since been removed, but not before several people captured screenshots of them. Each politician has decided to address the fallout differently.

Pon sent out another tweet saying she shared the post “inadvertently”, adding she supports the advice of medical experts and not the voices playing into fear.

Unlike Pon, however, Chu hasn’t acknowledged it and declined to comment when asked about the tweet.

“When these types of representations are spread and this misinformation is spread, it creates fear, it creates confusion around how these diseases are transmitted. It de-humanizes refugees and makes the Canadian public feel like our borders are not under our control.”

The death toll from the coronavirus in China has exceeded 100 with over 4,500 cases reported worldwide as of Tuesday morning.