'It really is not acceptable': Henry responds to threats from conspiracy theorists, pandemic deniers
VANCOUVER -- For more than a year, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry has been ending her news conferences with the mantra "be kind, be calm and stay safe."
On Thursday, in response to a question about the many protests and threats of violence she has seen from people who reject the science behind the COVID-19 pandemic and British Columbia's response to it, Henry responded kindly and calmly to those who would threaten her safety.
"I recognize that when people are in crises, part of the way they respond or react is to lash out, to become angry," Henry said. "That is a reaction that is sometimes fed by certain groups, by certain media, social media posts, etc."
Henry's comments come after video surfaced of a gathering in what appears to be a downtown Vancouver condo during which at least one guest suggested Henry should be shot or hanged.
Vancouver police spokesperson Const. Tania Visintin told CTV News police are aware of the video and are investigating.
"This is the first case in Vancouver that has been brought to our attention of an alleged threat made (against the public health officer)," Visintin said. "Our investigators are in the works deciphering what was said and how it was said and all that."
Participants in the gathering are seen in the video eating, drinking and socializing, without masks or efforts to maintain physical distance. Some can also be heard discussing their belief that the Earth is flat and other conspiracy theories with no basis in reality.
The provincial health officer stressed that she didn't mean to condone the actions of people threatening violence against public health officials, but to highlight the importance of empathy in getting through the pandemic.
"The psychology of what we're dealing with leads some people to react that way," she said. "I do believe that it is our collective support for each other that helps mitigate the impacts of these things."
Henry said she and other top health officials from across the country meet regularly and provide a support system for each other. All of them have faced similar threats and protests, she said.
"It really is not acceptable, and what I find most disturbing is how it impacts the people I work with and my family and my close contacts," Henry said. "That's the most challenging piece right now."
B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix echoed Henry's comments, calling threats against the public health officer "unacceptable" and "disgraceful."
He also appealed for a "more respectful debate" about the pandemic and the province's response to it, saying the government is not always right and that disagreeing with Henry or the federal government or the World Health Organization is "absolutely legitimate."
Personal attacks, however, are not, Dix said.
He highlighted the hard work of Henry and other health officials across the province and across the country, saying they've been "giving everything they have," seven days a week, since January 2020.
Dix described Henry as "an extraordinary human being."
"She never loses sight of people in this pandemic," he said. "Regardless of the criticism, she continues to show compassion for everybody, every single person. Regardless of one's view of what we're doing from a day-to-day basis, that is worthy of respect."