The president of the Alberta Federation of Labour has issued a formal apology following backlash from a series of tweets that compared the Alberta UCP to Germany’s Nazi government.
On Monday, Gil McGowan penned several tweets that compared the actions of Alberta’s current political party with “tactics pioneered by the Nazis.”
McGowan also made reference to Adolf Hitler, quoting his propaganda chief to describe Alberta’s current government.
“Hitler’s propaganda chief Joseph Goebbel famously said: ‘Always accuse your enemies of what you are doing yourself.’ That’s exactly what’s going on with Jason Kenney’s union-busting Bill 32,” McGowan tweeted on Monday.
“Yes, I’m accusing the UCP of adopting tactics pioneered by the Nazis and being implemented right-wing authoritarians today.”
McGowan’s tweets spurred reactions from several people both locally and across the country, including the Calgary Jewish Federation and B’nai Birth Canada, a Jewish service organization.
On Wednesday, McGowan issued a formal apology for his comparisons.
“I, Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour, apologize unreservedly for invoking the name of Adolf Hitler and the monstrous Nazi government of Germany, in my criticism of political tactics adopted by the UCP government of Alberta,” McGowan wrote in a statement addressing the topic.
“I was wrong to use the Nazi regime as a point of reference.”
McGowan said he also acknowledges the anguish his choice of words may have brought to many.
“After engaging in conversation with a representative of the Calgary Jewish Federation and the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, it became clear to me that my use of a quote widely attributed to Hitler’s propaganda chief could trigger traumatic memories for survivors of the Holocaust and their descendants,” he said.
“It certainly wasn’t my intention to diminish the historic significance of the Holocaust or disrespect the memories of the millions of Jews who were brutally murdered during Hitler’s reign of terror in Europe.”
While McGowan apologized for his choice of words, he did note that his concern for the UCP’s use of “authoritarian-inspired tactics” still exists.
“I recognize now that there were many other ways that I could have, and should have, expressed my concerns about the global rise of authoritarianism and the UCP’s use of authoritarian-inspired tactics that didn’t involve comparison with the Nazis,” he said.
McGowan also noted that he will continue to criticize the actions of Premier Jason Kenney’s government, but said in the future he will do so in a more respectful manner.
“I will continue to push back against the UCP’s agenda of cuts, privatization and polarization,” he said. “But I will do so without reference to the much greater evil that was Nazism and the Holocaust.