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Tory MP sorry after calling lockdowns greatest civil liberties breach since WWII internment camps

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Conservative MP David Sweet has apologized after issuing a tweet on Friday claiming there is “no evidence” that COVID-19 lockdowns work, stating they are the “the single greatest breach” of civil liberties “since the Internment Camps during WW2.”

He did not, however, walk back his comments about lockdowns — which a doctor said were a vast departure from the facts.

“My tweet yesterday regarding the freedom of Ontarian’s was to give a timeline only. In no way was I comparing today with the atrocities of war,” Sweet wrote on Twitter.

“For anyone offended I unequivocally apologize.”

Read more: Hidden Hate: Exposing the roots of anti-Asian racism in Canada

In his initial tweet, issued Friday night, Sweet used the example of internment camps to highlight his firm opposition to lockdowns.

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“We are experiencing the single greatest breach of our Civil Liberties since the Internment Camps during WW2,” he wrote.

He doubled down in a second tweet, also issued Friday.

“To be clear I am referring to Canadian internment camps of innocent immigrants during WW2,” he wrote. “Unjustly, because of their ethnic association had their civil liberties suspended even though they were landed immigrants or Canadians.”

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About 24,000 people, including 12,000 Japanese Canadians, were forced into internment camps during the Second World War. Men in the camps were often separated from their families and forced to do physical labour, according to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights. Many lost all their property and thousands were later exiled to Japan.

One expert said the comparison was “disgusting.”

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“To compare lockdowns to [Second World War] internment camps is wrong for so many reasons,” said Dr. Matthew Miller, assistant dean at McMaster University’s department of biochemistry and biomedical sciences.
“[Second World War] internment camps disproportionately affected a minority racialized community in Canada. And this pandemic, we know, is disproportionately affecting minority racialized communities, equity-seeking groups. And these lockdowns, frankly, protect those groups.”

Miller said Sweet’s comparison show such a “naiveté” and a “lack of understanding of the situation on the ground.”

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As legions of Twitter users questioned his choice of comparison with hundreds of replies, Sweet issued a third tweet claiming he wasn’t comparing the two issues.

“For those who just can’t hold back outrage “since” is Not the same or interchangeable with “as” or “like”!  So cancel your disingenuous leap of comparison!” he fired out.

Less than half an hour before apologizing for his remarks, he tweeted in direct response to this Global News report.

“I guess I messed up my quiet reserved persona with you!” he wrote on Twitter.

Lockdowns are effective, experts say

During his tweetstorm, Sweet also called into question the efficacy of the lockdowns, despite resounding evidence that they’ve been an effective method of combatting the virus.

“ABSOLUTELY NO evidence that lockdowns work but dozens and dozens of papers proving they don’t,” claimed Sweet in his tweet.

“I’m am saddened and appalled at my political colleagues’ silence!”

Read more: COVID-19: Public Health Ontario confirms 36 cases of B.1.617 variant now in province

Global News reached out to Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole’s office but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

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Sweet’s claims are totally contrary to all the evidence to date, which has clearly shown the efficacy of stricter lockdown measures at pushing down otherwise swelling case counts, according to Miller. Canada’s disease trajectory was following a steady growth pattern, according to federal officials — but that changed when hard-hit jurisdictions like Ontario brought down new measures.

“In recent days, following the implementation of restrictions in heavily impacted areas of Canada, the national RT has finally dipped below one,” said Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam.

“This means that for the first time in many weeks, the epidemic has dropped out of a growth pattern.”

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The current reality on the ground makes Sweet’s tweet all the more “naïve and ignorant,” according to Miller.

“ICUs are overwhelmed. We’re having to shuttle patients all around the province to ensure that they’re able to get the care they need. You know, it’s just such an absolute disconnect from reality,” Miller said.

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The evidence is clear, he added: lockdowns are effective.

“There’s absolutely no doubt that they do work,” said Miller.

“Look, the reality is that no one wants to have to institute a lockdown. There’s no one in the medical field, and there’s certainly no one in government, who wants to do this.”

Read more: Losing sight of the COVID-19 finish line: How more lockdowns, cases blur hope

He said that because of the impact on finances and mental health, lockdowns are a “last resort.”

“Unfortunately, we’re in an unprecedented public health crisis and nothing but the most stringent lockdown has worked. And frankly, we were too slow to institute a lockdown that could have easily prevented the severe third wave we’re in now,” Miller said.

“So all objective evidence points to the fact that these lockdowns have worked to curb these numbers.”

Miller said he hopes that elected officials will do better in their use of social media.

“I certainly expect better from our elected officials,” he said.

“Unfortunately, things like Twitter provide a platform for misinformed and uneducated people to have an audience and say whatever they want.”

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