Hamilton school board hears delegation from antivaxxer, as COVID-19 cases among elementary students rise


Published December 13, 2021 at 10:48 pm

Jason Kowalyshyn, left, with People's Party of Canada leader Maxime Bernier in a recent photo shared to Kowalyshyn's Facebook account.

Hamilton’s public school board heard a delegation on Monday night from an antivaxxer who calls for “united noncompliance” against COVID-19 vaccines.

The agenda for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board meeting on Dec. 13 shows that Paul Alexander and Jason Kowalyshyn were scheduled to speak to trustees about mandatory vaccine procedures. Alexander, a former Trump Administration official who came under scrutiny in 2020 for trying to exert control over public messaging by scientists and health officials regarding the coronavirus pandemic, was a no-show. Alexander is a McMaster University graduate whom the Hamilton institution has publicly distanced itself from.

However, Kowalshyn presented for his allotted 10 minutes, relying on Alexander’s research, most of which has been published on far-right websites.

The HWDSB acknowledged the delegation “was not agreeable” to all meeting participants, and said they do not vet delegator’s remarks in advance.

“While the delegation this evening was not agreeable to all participants of the meeting, the request and approval is based on the delegate submitting a request to an item on the agenda,” Shawn McKillop, the HWDSB manager of communications and community engagement, wrote in response to an email that was sent to Chair Dawn Danko and Vice-Chair Becky Buck. “HWDSB Trustees nor staff are responsible for vetting the presentation/speaking remarks ahead of time.

“While there may have been times when the delegate veered away from the topic on the agenda, there were points which did align to the topic.

“As a Board, we are open and welcoming views from delegates which may differ from our own personal views.”

The HWDSB  has had 82 cases so far in December among students, staff and visitors. Fifteen were reported on Monday. The cases would not necessarily have been contracted in the schools.

The board’s page about presentations says trustees “are committed to effective, meaningful dialogue with students, parents and the community.”

Kowalyshyn has called for “united noncompliance” with vaccine requirements, and also has described vaccines as an “epic failure.” Some of his posts on his Facebook page have been flagged for containing misleading information about COVID-19.

He has also appeared on programs hosted by far-right failed politician Kevin J. Johnston. His profile picture shows him with People’s Party of Canada Leader Maxime Bernier, who has also opposed COVID-19 restrctions.

Higher vaccination rates against COVID-19 have been linked to limiting severe illness and hospital admissions. While COVID-19 information constantly changes, the Ontario Science Table recently stated that, compared to a person with at least two doses, an unvaccinated person is seven times more likely to catch COVID-19. They are 25 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 60 times more likely to be in the ICU due to the disease.

Kowalyshyn, on his personal Facebook, boasts of connections with promiment antivaxxers. Last week, he appeared on a show hosted by Johnston, alongside University of Waterloo professor Dr. Michael Palmer. In September 2020, Palmer distributed a course outline at Waterloo referring to the “COVID fake emergency.”

Johnston, incidentally, is facing both a $2.5-million defamation judgment, and an order to pay over $226,000 in court costs, after being successfully sued by Paramount Fine Foods founder Mohamed Fakir. Johnston was found to have to have made a series of Islamophobic postings targeting Fakir and Muslims in 2017.

In October, Kowalyshyn shared links to research by Alexander. Facebook’s independent fact-checkers flagged the links for containing possible misinformation.

Media Bias Fact Check describes the United States-based Brownstone Institute, which has published Alexander’s work, as a “a Libertarian think tank that advocates for Anarcho-Capitalism.” It is rated as “mixed for factual reporting due to a failed fact check and the promotion of misinformation regarding Covid-19.”

LifeSiteNews is a Canadian Catholic far-right anti-abortion advocacy website. It is barred by some social media platforms for spreading COVID-19 misinformation.

(The HHS is the United States Department of Health and Human Services, where Alexander was briefly an advisor, not Hamilton Health Sciences.)

Kowalyshyn also appeared at a freedom rally in Hamilton in September.

Last year, Kowalyshyn said that “mass civil disobedience” was needed to end the COVID-19 pandemic while commenting on an article by the Hamilton Spectator.

On his LinkedIn, Kowalyshyn says he has been a sales manager at a company called Intravision since 2017, and is a “guitarist with over 30 years experience.”

His page does not list any scientific credentials.

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