Published:April 5, 2022
Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw, while testifying on behalf of the provincial government, confirmed her public health orders were a factor in negative outcomes.
Day two of court proceedings continued on Tuesday in the lawsuit against the Alberta government’s public health measures and use of lockdown measures.
Hinshaw, one of the main witnesses for the Alberta government, is being cross-examined by Leighton Grey, a lawyer on behalf of the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms (JCCF).
Grey is one of two lawyers — the other being Jeff Rath of Rath & Company — representing three people named as applicants in the lawsuit, along with two Alberta churches.
The Alberta government is in court to defend its public health measures in the civil trial arising from a constitutional challenge launched more than a year ago.
Grey inquired about Hinshaw’s early warnings about misinformation.
“The role of conspiracy theories, naysayers and non-believers and the power of social media to propagate misinformation and create a groundswell of people who don’t believe COVID risk is real and therefore do not change their behaviours,” Grey read of Hinshaw’s testimony.
Hinshaw agreed the idea of misinformation is a “serious concern.”
Grey pointed to statements from Hinshaw early on in February 2020 where she warned it was important to”stay vigilant against the risk of misinformation which can spread fear and division.”
She said her comments were based on individuals of Asian descent who were being targeted because of what they looked like, based on the fact the virus was discovered to have originated in China. She said it was important to be “transparent with information” and direct people to reliable sources.
“By reliable, you meant sources of information that came from Alberta Health or the Alberta government,” said Grey.
Hinshaw said that was one source, but there were others including peer-reviewed published articles.
Grey pointed to another statement from Hinshaw a week later where she again referenced “reliable sources” including Alberta Health and AHS.
“So again you’re referring Albertans to Alberta Health Services information and telling them really to disabuse their minds and to ignore other sources of information which the government of Alberta regarded as incorrect. That’s essentially what’s being done here isn’t it; you’re controlling the narrative?” said Grey.
Hinshaw said the government “wanted to make sure that people were aware of some of the challenges with accessing information and just like we would do with any topic for people to be aware of what the source of information was, what some of the challenges could be with that” and said the Alberta Health and AHS websites are and were at the time considered reliable websites for information.
Grey said there has not “been a scientific consensus about the risks of COVID-19” and said “there are many eminent scientists, among them Dr. Bhattacharya, who disagree with that narrative” so the idea there are “naysayers or conspiracy theorists” isn’t accurate.
Hinshaw disagreed and said looking at what the “majority of experts in the field” would conclude that COVID-19 posed an “extraordinary threat to populations as a whole.”
“The fact that a small number of individuals may have had different opinions doesn’t change the fact that the majority of scientists would agree that COVID-19 was an extraordinary threat,” said Hinshaw.
With respect to the government interventions, Grey asked Hinshaw about the natural course of waves of infection with cases increasing, peaking and subsiding.
“The control that we have is over how high that peak is, how steep the rise is and what the subsequent impact on acute care and severe outcomes is,” said Hinshaw.
She said as the waves go up and down, the interventions are designed to “impact the severity of each wave.”
“Is it the position of Alberta [government] that, but for these [lockdown measures], that COVID-19 would have kept on rising exponentially?” said Grey.
Hinshaw denied that outcome but said the overall impact was lessened with the use of NPIs.
She also said she has never indicated the intent of the lockdown measures was to “eliminate the virus,” but to spread out the course of the pandemic so the healthcare system isn’t overwhelmed at any one time.