New Brunswick education minister receiving death threats amid mandatory vaccine legislation

Dominic Cardy, New Brunswick's education minister, speaks with Global News in May 2019. Megan Yamoah / Global News

New Brunswick’s education minister says he has received death threats in response to the province’s plan to make vaccinations mandatory for children in school and daycare.

Dominic Cardy told Global News on Tuesday that the anonymous messages have come on multiple social media platforms and through email.

“They’ve largely just been random messages with threats of violence and death,” he said in a phone interview from Fredericton, saying the messages have come from across Canada as well as internationally.

“I often just write back to the person myself or ignore them depending on the content of the letter.”

“Otherwise, I try just to ignore whatever the threats are and see if there’s any substance at the heart of it and respond to that.”

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Luckily, none of the threats have been found to be credible.

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Bill 11, also known as New Brunswick’s Act Respecting Proof of Immunization, would require children in public schools and licenced daycare facilities to provide proof of immunization or a medical exemption signed by a medical professional.

Currently, non-medical exemptions are allowed.

Last year, New Brunswick saw an outbreak of measles at Saint John-area high schools and 30 confirmed cases of whooping cough in Moncton.

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Cardy said that he finds the response to the proposed legislation troubling as it “would be the sort of thing that could stop [people] from getting involved in politics.”

He said it’s already a challenge to fill seats on the municipal level and that harassment isn’t likely to make it better.

“It absolutely is a deterrent. So having a public conversation on how we can deal with this I think is something that’s important going forward, because clearly, social media isn’t going away,” said Cardy.

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“We don’t want to restrict free speech, but at the same time, we want to make sure we’ve got an environment that encourages people to want to serve.”

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The next round of municipal elections is set for May in New Brunswick.

Cardy said despite the threats, the government will continue its push for mandatory vaccinations when the house returns in March. He’s under no illusion about what to expect when the legislation once again draws the attention of the public.

“I am sure that this issue is going to generate more and more hate mail and other issues that I’m dealing with as education minister,” Cardy said.

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