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The Anti-vax Doctor Praised by Danielle Smith Faces the Music

Dr. Roger Hodkinson kept calling COVID a hoax. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta may be out of patience.

Charles Rusnell 12 Mar 2024The Tyee

Charles Rusnell is an independent investigative reporter based in Edmonton.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, pathologist Dr. Roger Hodkinson derided the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta for alleging that contrarian COVID-19 statements by doctors like him are dangerous disinformation.

And his audience kept growing.

Through numerous appearances on fringe social media broadcasts and public speeches in which he invariably cites his Cambridge university education, Hodkinson has developed a worldwide following among anti-COVID vaccine, anti-restriction conspiracy theorists and far-right politicians — including Alberta Premier Danielle Smith.

Hodkinson’s elite medical credentials and his pronouncements that COVID is no worse than a bad flu, that vaccines and masks are useless and that social distancing restrictions cause more harm than benefit are often cited in social media posts and angry emails to academics, government officials and journalists.

Hodkinson freely expresses his own anger towards medical professionals who disagree with him that COVID is no threat. “I am full of vengeance,” he told one podcast host. “I am vengeful. It’s not a time to say I’m sorry. It’s time to put these bastards in jail. I’m calling it the Big Kill.”

“We know people like [Hodkinson] have had a big impact on public discourse and perceptions,” said University of Alberta professor Tim Caulfield, an expert in health misinformation in social media.

Hodkinson’s claims, Caulfield said, are often cited in the prodigious amounts of hate mail he receives.

“He was part of a small group of MDs [doctors] that were often referenced to support conspiracy theories and misinformation,” Caulfield said.

Hodkinson is about to find out if his dismissive assertion that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta has no right to limit his public statements is defensible.

After years of Hodkinson’s ongoing campaign against COVID-19 public health measures, the college has finally scheduled a hearing for April 9 to 10, but a college official said it will likely be postponed to a later date.

The citations relate to comments Hodkinson made to a virtual public meeting held by Edmonton city council committee on Nov. 13, 2020.

The committee had sought public input in considering whether to extend the city’s mask bylaw, which council eventually did.

In Hodkinson’s statement to the committee — delivered as a non-stop harangue for nearly five minutes — he claimed governments at all levels should have done nothing about COVID-19.

“There is utterly unfounded public hysteria, driven by the media and politicians,” he claimed. “It’s outrageous. This is the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on an unsuspecting public. There is absolutely nothing that can be done to contain this virus, other than protecting older, more vulnerable people.

“It should be thought of as nothing more than a bad flu season. This is not Ebola. It’s not SARS. It’s politics playing medicine. And that is a very dangerous game,” Hodkinson said. He later touted the Great Barrington Declaration, which essentially prescribes herd immunity, a strategy rejected by most of the world’s health authorities as dangerous and lacking in scientific basis.

The college alleges some of the statements Hodkinson made were unprofessional because they were presented as medical opinion that was outside his scope of practice as a pathologist and he failed to state that limitation.

Hodkinson made several unprofessional statements, the college alleges, that breached the Canadian Medical Association Code of Ethics and Professionalism including that masks are utterly useless and that there is no evidence of their effectiveness. He also claimed taking 3,000 to 5,000 units of vitamin D each day has been shown to radically reduce the likelihood of infection.

He directly accused councillors of “being led down the garden path by the chief medical officer of health” for Alberta, who at that time was Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

The citation also references other alleged unprofessional statements Hodkinson has posted online.

Hodkinson refused to co-operate with the college’s investigation. He declined an interview request by The Tyee.

It’s not known why the college took years to call Hodkinson to account. And it is unlikely the issuance of any sanction could counter the effect of his statements to the Edmonton city council committee. The edited five-minute video went viral on various social media platforms including YouTube and TikTok and has been translated into several languages including Russian, Portuguese and Spanish.

The fact-checking site Snopes, the Associated Press and Agence France-Presse all found Hodkinson’s main statements to city council were false, including that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu and that masks are useless.

The Alberta Medical Association also refuted the claims made by Hodkinson in the video, and Alberta Health Services took the extraordinary step of distancing itself from Hodkinson through a series of posts on X.

A series of Alberta Health Services posts on X distancing itself from Dr. Roger Hodkinson.

The thorough public debunking of Hodkinson’s statements didn’t matter to Danielle Smith.

Before she returned to politics, Smith hosted a political podcast for the Western Standard. On March 23, 2021, the podcast, entitled “Uncensored: Deplatformed Doctors,” featured Hodkinson, former heart surgeon Dr. Dennis Modry and Dr. Patrick Phillips, a rural Ontario family doctor who was suspended by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario for providing inappropriate COVID- 19 treatments and misinformation on social media.

A screenshot shows four people and the words 'Live with Western Standard' and 'Uncensored: Deplatformed Doctors.'
Hodkinson, in the lower right corner, in 2021 was likened by podcast host Danielle Smith to Albert Einstein before he baselessly ranted for five minutes about how useless and harmful COVID vaccines and other pandemic measures were.

A few months earlier, Smith had quit her Corus radio talk show, claiming, in a Global opinion piece, that “far too many topics have become unchallengeable and the mob of political correctness thinks nothing of destroying a person’s career and reputation over some perceived slight, real or imagined.”

In her introduction of Hodkinson, Smith said she had wanted to bring him onto her Corus show after his city council committee appearance but had been told she couldn’t. And she said it was important to provide a platform for alternative views about how the government responded to COVID-19.

Smith sought to portray Hodkinson and the other doctors as brave contrarians. At one point, she related an anecdote about someone challenging Albert Einstein, claiming a majority of other physicists disagreed with him.

“And he said, ‘What does it matter? If it’s a majority, all it would take is one; it would just take one person to overturn my theory if they happen to be right,’” Smith said.

“And yet we don’t seem to have that attitude in medical science,” she said. “It seems like the innovators and the ones who are experimenting and the ones who are prepared to go out on a limb, if they don’t fit with a narrative or a mainstream idea, then they’re actually shouted down,” she said.

“So do you have some thoughts on why that is?” Smith asked Hodkinson.

“There has been no due diligence done on this matter from the get-go anywhere,” Hodkinson responded and then ranted for nearly five minutes straight about how useless and harmful the COVID vaccines and health restrictions were.

“The colleges [of physicians and surgeons] are claiming that anyone that speaks a counter-narrative is basing it on hearsay, and they have the facts,” Hodkinson said, as Smith and the other panellists nodded in agreement. “Well, there are no facts in this matter. That is a grotesque lie.

“These are arbitrary measures introduced by politicians because they have to be seen to be doing something to save their backsides; anything so long as it’s visible, and then they bring down the dogs to make sure it’s enforced, with all sorts of consequences.”

Caulfield said Smith is engaging in a “logical fallacy” that he sees daily among anti-vaxers.

“It’s this idea that because we’re wrong, we must be right. Because we’re wrong, we’re brave heroes, fighting the good fight against the narrative,” Caulfield said.

“When of course that is not the case at all. Galileo, Einstein, plate tectonics, on and on — those controversial ideas were tested in the scientific literature and slowly found to be true. Einstein didn’t ignore the science as it emerged. Galileo didn’t ignore the science as it emerged.

“Virtually everything these COVID deniers say has been studied and shown to be wrong, and then they just choose to ignore the science,” he said. “And the scientific consensus is not as they portray. It’s not some groupthink project. It is how science works,” he said.

“This has become such a dominant theme, it drives me nuts,” he said. “It is just not how it played out. It is not the reality. It is incredible that [Smith] is part of the community that believes this and now she is our premier. It is kind of horrifying.”

If you have any information for this story, or information for another story, please contact Charles Rusnell in confidence via email.  [Tyee]

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