Essex Councillor's COVID-19 Tweets 'Shameful': Holt

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A Windsor, Ont. city councillor has harsh words for Chis Vander Doelen.

The Essex, Ont. councillor took to Twitter Friday to announce he had contracted COVID-19, but called it the "Chinese flu." A term many in the community took issue with, as it's been a calling card for movements inciting violence against Asian Canadians. 

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A tweet from Essex Ward 3 Councillor Chris Vander Doelen posted on Friday April 9, 2021 (Photo via Twitter/@winstarvander)

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A tweet from Essex Ward 3 Councillor Chris Vander Doelen posted on Friday April 9, 2021 (Photo via Twitter/@winstarvander)

Vander Doelen also tweeted that "COVID stands for Chinese Origins Virus etc.", but has since deleted the tweet. According to the World Health Organization, COVID-19 stands for Coronvirus Disease year 2019.

Windsor Councillor Chris Holt is one of several politicians from all levels of government across Essex County to denounce the tweets.

His wife Nancy is of Chinese descent, so his reply to Vander Doelen via Twitter was simple.

"I married a woman of Chinese descent that I love dearly and I come home every day to see what the effect of the Asian hate going on around the globe has on a her personally," he added.

Holt says the tweets are shameful.

"It's something that I've never experienced myself, but to see how it effects Nancy, it would break your heart," he says. "It offended me that he did this."

Vander Doelen tells AM800 News his tweets weren't intended to stir anti-Asian sentiments.

That argument isn't believable, according to Holt.

"You know exactly what you're doing by calling it [COVID-19] what he called it [Chinese flu]. He's getting the response that he wanted. He gets to demonize people," he says. "That's why I said what I said on Twitter. There's no room in the world for this."

Mayor Larry Snively issued a statement on behalf of Essex Town Council denouncing the tweets Saturday.

Ward 2 Councillor Kim Verbeek says the town's message is clear.

"We would be condoning it if we weren't condemning it, so we have to speak forcefully against this kind of speech," she added.

Surrounding mayors and councillors along with federal and provincial officials have issued statements following the incident, according to Verbeek.

"They've stepped up in such a large number to recognize how harmful letting those remarks slide would be," she says. "It's important that we strongly condemn it, because you know elected officials are supposed to lead by example."

Verbeek spent the weekend going through emails from upset residents.

She hopes Vander Doelen takes the time to read them as well.

"Whether his comments were intended to have the effect or do the harm they have done, I think these emails are going to make it clear for him that an apology is needed," she says. 

The Essex County Chinese Canadian Association (ECCCA) joined the town and several organizations in requesting the posts be removed — they're also looking for an apology.

On Saturday, Vander Doelen told AM800 News he would not be complying with the request, saying he won't take down the tweet, "about having Chinese flu because that's what I had."

He went on to say he can't control how people interpret his tweets, so he won't be apologizing.