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Anti-vaccine film sparks debate about Halifax’s policy on booking venues

Film screening in Bedford doesn’t violate HRM’s booking policy

4 min read
caption A sign advertising vaccines at a Shoppers Drug Market in Halifax.
Nick Cantar

A world-renowned professor on immunization is criticizing the Halifax Regional Municipality’s policy on renting venues ahead of a screening of an anti-vaccination film.

Dr. Noni MacDonald, a professor of pediatrics at Dalhousie University, said the screening of Vaxxed II spreads misinformation harmful to children’s health.

“If somebody was coming in to present for kids a pro-alcohol or pro-tobacco video, would we rent out to them?” said MacDonald, an adviser on immunization to the World Health Organization. “Why is anti-vax different from pro-alcohol and pro-tobacco?”

A group called CFVC is scheduled to screen the film Friday at the LeBrun Recreation Centre, a municipal building in Bedford.

To book a venue, groups fill out various forms and pay a rental fee. The rental is allowed as long as it doesn’t discriminate against groups protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Nova Scotia Human Rights Act.

caption Dr. Noni MacDonald is a specialist in vaccines.
Noni MacDonald

“The municipality does not have a policy on individuals, groups or organizations that can or cannot book in our facilities, unless they offend the principles set out in the Canadian Charter Rights or Nova Scotia Human Rights Act,” an HRM spokesperson said in an email to The Signal.

Since the event doesn’t target any group, CFVC is permitted to book the venue under current HRM policies.

MacDonald believes HRM’s decision to allow the screening violates parts of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

“I think Halifax council is looking at this from the wrong way,” said MacDonald.

Article 17 of the convention says a state should promote information with the purpose of improving a child’s physical and mental health, while Article 24 says a state should “recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health.”

Tim Outhit, councillor for Bedford-Wentworth, took to social media last week to express his concerns about the screening. In a tweet, he questioned HRM’s decision not to cancel the event.

Outhit said he would like to see some amendments to HRM’s policy for booking venues.

“I’m all in favour of us improving things. There’s a fine line between censorship and trying to prevent harm and damage. The lawyers would have to look at this, but right now the contract only deals with the Charter and Human Rights Act,” Outhit said in an interview.

CFVC couldn’t be reached for a comment.

Spreading misinformation

MacDonald said films like Vaxxed II undermine the work of health researchers by seeding doubt.

“Five to 10 minutes of listening to this kind of stuff and it can change your intention to vaccinate,” said MacDonald. “It undermines the other information that you’ve been hearing. If you’re not told and explained and shown that they are trying to con you, you start to believe in this.”

MacDonald said the leaders of the anti-vaxxer movement are often trying to turn a profit. She pointed to an investigation by the Guardian that found some anti-vaxxer Facebook groups were selling vitamins to their followers. A ticket for Vaxxed II costs $17.89.

“We need to point out the ones that are making money, and for their followers we need to help them understand how they are being bamboozled,” said MacDonald.

‘Harm and stigma’

Alex Kronstein, chapter leader of Autistics United Nova Scotia, is organizing a protest for the night of the screening. He’s worried the film may lead to outbreaks of disease, but he’s also concerned with the language that anti-vaxxers use when talking about people with autism.

caption Alex Kronstein is opposed to the screening of Vaxxed II.
Alex Kronstein

“These anti-vaccine views have brought a lot of harm and stigma to autistic people because it leads people to see autism as something to fear and to look at autistic people as damaged,” said Kronstein.

He thinks HRM should amend its policy for booking facilities.

“Maybe we should be setting the bar higher than not inciting violence or hatred, to include a rule against hosting these kinds of movie screenings at a time when we are getting outbreaks of all these contagious preventable diseases,” said Kronstein.

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About the author

Nick Cantar

Nick Cantar is a journalist for The Signal. He is curious about all kinds of stories. When not working, Nick enjoys being outdoors.

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  1. T

    Ted Kuntz

    Maybe we should support our right to free speech, the right to informed consent, the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children, and the right to security of the person and bodily sovereignty. Professionals as Dr. MacDonald who purport to know about a film they haven't yet seen reveals their arrogance and ignorance. And Dr. MacDonald wonders why more and more people are losing trust in her profession. Show up, watch the movie, participate in the conversation and let people decide for themselves. Censorship is anti-science, anti-democracy and anti-informed consent.
  2. D

    Dorito Reiss

    I am sick of articles like this where the “journalist” and everyone in the article has no idea what they’re talking about and are essentially just pimping for pHARMa as presstitutes. WATCH THE FILM. It is interviews with people who DID vaccinate and saw harm or death follow. MacDonald should watch to see if those individuals are living their best most healthy lives as she claims vaccines create health. Kronstein needs to understand that it’s not inciting violence or hatred against those who have autism. The people in the film LOVE THEIR CHILDREN. THEY are the ones who are experiencing discrimination and abuse because they will no longer vaccinate. And let’s face it, autism is DIFFICULT for everyone in the family. And oh my God! They’re charging $18 for a movie ticket?! Are the rest of the movies shown in Canada FREE?! Do the people who rented the venue not have the right to try to recover rental fees? As for people “selling vitamins in antivax groups,” I’ve never been told I must buy anything in order to be allowed to send my kids to school. You want to talk about making bank? Vaccines create womb to tomb indentured patients. Vaccines are loss leaders that create the need for other pHARMa drugs for a lifetime (and they don’t even guarantee to protect against illnesses and don’t guarantee not to harm or kill)!
  3. J

    John Pelletier

    Pro-vax people see any information that questions vaccine safety, efficacy, or policy as "misinformation".
  4. a


    I agree with Lynne.People spend $20 to see a movie for entertainment,why not for information? It is incredibly time consuming to research this information,so why shouldn't the people who bring it to us be paid. it is no different than anyone else being paid to do a job.It is so encouraging to see so many people who can see whats going on.I read thousands of comments on this subject,and very few people trust govt or big pharma any more.There are numerous studies and scientists who disagree with the propaganda,but are silenced because of who pays for it. Data is manipulated if the outcome is not favorable.THIS IS A FACT I have read countless times.
  5. A


    It’s different Noni because we are not children, we are adults capable of forming our own opinions. We are not the children of health authorities, needing to be sheltered from information and told what to do. The narcissism coming from health authorities is appauling, As well as the ignorance, none of them have even watched the film they insist on censoring.
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