Essex councillor faces backlash over social media comments

Screengrab via Chris Vander Doelen Twitter

A councillor for the Town of Essex is facing some public criticism over comments he made on Twitter surrounding COVID-19.

Early Friday afternoon, Ward 3 Councillor Chris Vander Doelen tweeted, “My test for the Chinese flu came back positive. So I hafta lay low for another week — a punishment worse than the illness proved to be.”

Screengrab via Chris Vander Doelen Twitter

The term “Chinese flu” quickly drew outrage from dozens of people across social media, who labelled the term as racist and inappropriate. Several replies also called on the Town of Essex to reprimand Vander Doelen.

“To my Essex friends please note tweets and posts by city councillor Chris Vander Doelen. He is trying to incite hate toward Asian people because of COVID,” read one post. “He should not be in any kind of leadership position. Period.”

In a since-deleted tweet, Vander Doelen also stated that COVID stands for “Chinese Origin Virus etc.”

 

Screengrab via Chris Vander Doelen Twitter

Blackburn News has since reached out to Vander Doelen for comment.

The tweet also got the attention of several other elected officials including Windsor-Tecumseh MP Irek Kusmierczyk who urged Vander Doelen to remove the comment as well as former Essex MP Tracey Ramsey who said Vander Doelen was spreading misinformation.

 

Screengrab via Irek Kusmierczyk Twitter

Screengrab via Tracey Ramsey

A statement from Essex Mayor Larry Snively said the town of Essex denounced the language used by Vander Doelen.

“There is no place for these kinds of statements in our community and they do not reflect the beliefs of council nor the Town of Essex. The impact of these kinds of statements is undeniable. As Head of Council, I have asked Councillor Vander Doelen to retract his statements and issue a public apology,” said Snively.

The mayor went on to add that he and council have received a significant number of phone calls, emails and messages regarding the issue.

“We appreciate everyone who has shared their concerns with us and we understand that official complaint(s) are in the process of being filed with the integrity commissioner, who has the independent authority to initiate investigations into the conduct of individual council members.”