National Newswatch

FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's education minister is brushing off threats he says have been directed at him and his family as the result of his efforts to bring in mandatory vaccinations for children in the province.

Dominic Cardy says he's not bothered by the alleged threats from so-called anti-vaxxers, which he says have come through social media and email.

"I think this is one of the things that happens these days ... people say things they would never say in public, face-to-face," Cardy said in an interview Tuesday. "I'm quite happy to get into those sorts of fights. It doesn't bother me very much."

Following a measles outbreak in the province last year, Cardy introduced a proposed law that would make vaccinations mandatory for children in schools and daycares unless they have a medical exemption.

The legislation cites the notwithstanding clause in an effort to shield it against charter challenges, but Cardy says that provision could be removed if it faces too much opposition.

Cardy said New Brunswick's proposed vaccination rules are in line with similar decisions elsewhere in the world, including Germany, where starting in March measles immunization will be compulsory for all children and staff in kindergartens, schools, medical facilities and community facilities.

New Brunswick's Act Respecting Proof of Immunization would require children in public schools and licensed daycare facilities to provide proof of immunization or a medical exemption signed by a medical professional. Currently, non-medical exemptions are allowed.

The province held three days of public hearings that heard from opponents from across Canada and the United States. Cardy said he has received a steady stream of comments and threats ever since.

"There are people who have gone after my sister because she is a family doctor, and people who have gone after me saying they hope I get a needle in the eye. Others say I should watch how I am walking home, and things like that," he said. "There have been veiled threats like that, to direct ones saying 'I hope you die of a vaccine-related illness.'"

Cardy said he has not reported any of the threats to police.

"I think the police have got better things to do with their time than follow up with losers spending their time threatening politicians on social media," he said.

The government's vaccination bill is expected to face third and final readings in the legislature this spring, with the intention to have it in place for the fall of 2021. That would give public health officials time to have a vaccine registry in place.

Cardy said it's important that the bill is passed and children be vaccinated.

"If we don't, we run the risk of the medieval propagandists from the anti-vax community spreading misinformation with parents that frightens people into not getting vaccinated," he said. "I want to make sure that vulnerable kids, suffering from actual diseases, are protected, and the whole population is protected."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 21, 2020.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press

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