By Darren Lum
When Halbiem Crescent resident David Blodgett looked at the Druthers newsletter with the main headline, Pandemic of Fraud he was left in disbelief.
“I look at it and I think how unfortunate that people are spreading this nonsense when we should be relying on our government’s advice and the advice of health professionals and if I want to read good information in a newspaper I’ll stick to the Globe and Mail, thank you very much and [their columnist] Andre Picard as opposed to this nonsense,” he said.
The newsletter, which was distributed to Halbiem Crescent residents on Wednesday morning, includes stories endorsing COVID-19 conspiracy theories, whether its criticism about mask wearing and how the pandemic is part of a plan for the uber wealthy to get richer, or support the anti-vaccine stance. With wife Melanie, Blodgett has been a resident of Halbiem Crescent for five years and a long-time cottager in the area. It’s the first time he’s received anything like this at his door.
Before surrending the paper to the Echo for this story, Melanie wrote down the email address for Druthers to tell them she didn’t want any repeat deliveries.
“I just hate this kind of stuff. It’s like [yelling] fire for the ignorant. You know, it’s like c’mon,” she said.
This isn’t the first appearance for Druthers in Haliburton County.
In March, the copies of the publication were placed without permission in distribution boxes that included County Life. Druthers was started by Shawn Jason Laponte several months ago and has been distributed in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Mayor Andrea Roberts, another resident of Halbiem Crescent, called the publication “sheer propaganda” when she first saw it with her morning cup of coffee.
It shocked and surprised her.
Roberts said the way this printed publication is presented, which asks for donations and assistance with distribution, gives a false sense of credibility.
“It makes it look very credible and it makes it look very legitimate and I have a lot of concerns over this. I would caution people. Be very careful when you’re reading this [paper] to believe what is the truth,” she said.
She said there aren’t any bylaws she knows of that can stop this from being left on someone’s driveway.
Although the mayor recognizes there has been some mixed messaging since the start of the pandemic from public health officials to the different levels of government in Canada, she said it’s important to adhere to the rules, outlined in the plans set forth to return to normalcy.
“To me, we have to follow the rules that our province and our federal government has set out for us. We’re close. We’re doing the vaccination program. Spend an awful lot of energy, criticizing and I think we could just do our part … this made me very nervous. That’s the truth.”
She said it’s important people inform themselves with credible sources.
But she wishes there was greater attention paid by media related to reporting on COVID-19 stories, such as the deaths that have been attributed to the different vaccines.
“I wish the national and provincial press would be a lot more careful with how they release information,” she said. “Be careful what you read and don’t always believe what you read or hear … even in print and that’s no offence to the Echo or the Highlander when I say that.”
Haliburton Highlands Health Services president and CEO Carolyn Plummer, who wasn’t aware of the publication before being asked for comment by the Echo, said she had “grave concerns” about publications that question the validity of the pandemic and/or its severity.
“The pandemic is very real, and the severity of it can be seen clearly not only around the globe but also in our own province – in hospitals that are struggling right now to respond to unprecedented numbers of patients who are experiencing severe illness due to the COVID-19 virus, and in the devastation seen in many long-term care homes and other settings over the course of the past year as so many people lost their lives,” she wrote in an email message.
According to the World Health Organization, there have been more than 3.2 million deaths and close to 160 million cases in 220 countries and territories. There have been close to 1.2 billion vaccine doses administered worldwide.
“Unfortunately, publications that spread false information can put individuals and communities at risk; they can lead to a lack of adherence to public health guidance and precautions, as well as less uptake of the available vaccine – yet these are the very things that are needed to help all of us reach that light at the end of the pandemic tunnel. And sadly, these types of publications can be incredibly hurtful to the loved ones of those who have lost their lives as a result of this virus,” Plummer wrote.