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How to talk to your family about COVID-19 conspiracy theories

EDMONTON (CityNews) – Condemnation and fallout from Edmonton’s anti-COVID-19-restrictions rally continue to grow.

Comments of “fake news” and blaming Antifa were seen on a CityNews story outlining four Edmonton Police officers being injured. Video shows an officer being shoved, threatened and surrounded. Some comments even claimed police were disturbing the peace.

“This kind of denial is very common unfortunately. Once you embrace something as your personal identity, it becomes very difficult to change that person’s mind–even when they are confronted with video evidence,” explained Timothy Caufield, Canada Research chair of health and law at the University of Alberta.

Caufield added Saturday’s rally demonstrated what research has shown: there’s an overlap of the anti-mask and anti-vax movements and far right agitators and conspiracy theorists. Often, the two worlds collide in an online echo chamber.

“It’s very hard to change the mind of a hardcore denier. So, what you want to do is listen to them, and be empathetic, and I know that can be hard,” said Caufield.

“You want to direct them to reliable sources and point out the logical fallacies in what they are saying.”

Caulfield says hopefully they will take a look at some of the credible sources you show them, but you should focus more on keeping them from convincing other loved ones of the misinformation.

He recognizes there are those who simply question how the government is handling the coronavirus pandemic, but warns them to be aware of the extremists who have flocked to the movement.

“Recognize the community that you are entering and that some of their views may not align with your own, and be ready to call that out.”

After seeing racist imagery being used to promote Edmonton’s weekly anti-mask rally, the leader canceled the next event and told followers to not attend.