Recently, the frustration regarding the debilitating lockdown in Niagara Region hit a boiling point. Many citizens vented that the Wuhan virus grey zone smackdown is less a cure and more of a curse when it comes to damaging lives and livelihoods.
However, some people who were espousing those opinions in the cesspool of social media actually made threats against Dr. Mustafa Hirji, the acting medical officer of health for Niagara Region.
One might agree or disagree with Dr. Hirji’s advice, but calling for his death is abominable. Surely the line in the sand when it comes to free speech is advocating for violence or the death of an individual or recognizable group of individuals — and that line was clearly crossed here. Even Premier Doug Ford and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau weighed in on the matter via Twitter.
But in the department of “two wrongs make a right,” supporters of Dr. Hirji — including the St. Catharines Standard newspaper — have attacked those who they've deemed responsible for the death threats. And that would include Alicia Hirter, who recently reimagined her barbershop into a film production studio so that, according to current rules, she would be allowed to operate. Just one not-so-insignificant hitch: Alicia never uttered any death threats to anyone; rather, she herself has been targeted with death threats by pro-lockdown types.
Alicia says her only role in the Dr. Hirji controversy was circulating a meme that depicted Hirji with two demons on his shoulders. You be the judge of whether that makes for astute political commentary or a childish rebuke, but nevertheless, it was certainly no death threat.
As a result, people have phoned Alicia with threatening messages (several of which she has recorded). She is now concerned for her safety and isn’t living in her home. She has reached out to the police several times asking them to investigate, but the cops can’t be bothered looking into these threats. Alas, the police apparently have plenty of resources to park cruisers outside Alicia’s business and even her house, in what can only be construed as an intimidation tactic against someone who has found a way to stay in business.
Piling on is Grant LaFleche of the St. Catharines Standard. Like so many in the mainstream media, Grant is a pro-lockdown kind of guy, and he seems greatly perturbed that small business owners in St. Catharines, such as Alicia, have the temerity to exploit loopholes in the legislation in order to make a living. (Grant’s OK in this department, given that he is gainfully employed thanks to taxpayer handouts that keep his sinking newspaper afloat.) In any event, here is Grant’s lead paragraph regarding the Dr. Hirji controversy:
Opponents of Niagara’s upcoming COVID-19 grey zone lockdown, including a salon owner who opened in defiance of pandemic regulations, have taken to social media calling for the firing, arrest and even beheading of Niagara’s acting medical officer of health.
Obviously, there are no fact-checkers employed at the Standard.
For starters, Alicia did not open “in defiance of pandemic regulations” — she discovered that by operating as a film production studio, she could legally open her business. She even initially received approval from the city’s bylaw department.
Secondly, Grant lumps “a salon owner” (who he later fully names in his story) into a group calling for “the firing, arrest and even beheading” of Dr. Hirji, even though Alicia made no such death threats and is herself the target of death threats. Little wonder why Alicia is now consulting with a lawyer regarding a defamation lawsuit against the St. Catharines Standard.
(Note: we did reach out to Grant LaFleche for comment, but he said he was “too busy” to talk and then terminated the call. What a pro.)
In the final analysis, those who made death threats online against Dr. Hirji should be ashamed of their behaviour. As well, those brave, anonymous crusaders phoning Alicia at all hours and threatening a single mother and entrepreneur (who has never made a death threat against anyone) should be investigated by police (and it is shameful the police aren’t already doing so).
A crime has been committed in St. Catharines, to be sure, and the primary victim is a salon operator who now lives in fear of a pro-lockdown mob and members of the Media Party that want her shut down — as in, permanently.
Does it get more disgusting than that?