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Minority communities deserve apology from Smith for discrimination comments: LGBTQ2S+ researcher

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Minority communities deserve more than the statement Alberta's new premier put out on Wednesday, which stopped short of apologizing for claiming people who chose not to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is "the most discriminated-against group" she's seen during her lifetime, says a national researcher.

"We clearly have a lot of work to do in our province to ensure that everyone feels safe and included and I think that work needs to start right at the top with our premier," Kristopher Wells told CTV News Edmonton.

"One of the things she could start with is an apology to those minority communities who experience hate and discrimination and prejudice on a daily basis here in the province of Alberta."

Wells, an associate professor at MacEwan University in Edmonton, is Canada's Research Chair in the Public Understanding of Sexual and Gender Minority Youth. As the research chair, he studies how to create more inclusive and safe environments for youth who identify as a gender or sexual minority.

He called comments by Premier Danielle Smith on her first day at the helm of the Alberta government "misinformed and disingenuous."

After being sworn in on Tuesday, Smith told reporters she wanted to protect vaccine choice in the Canadian Human Rights Act, calling public health measures which prohibited unvaccinated Canadians from flying or crossing the U.S. border a form of discrimination. She said people who chose not to get a COVID-19 vaccine "have been the most discriminated against group that I've ever witnessed in my lifetime."

Less than 24 hours later, Smith in a statement said she "did not intend to trivialize in any way the discrimination faced by minority communities and other persecuted groups both here in Canada and around the world or to create any false equivalencies to the terrible historical discrimination and persecution suffered by so many minority groups over the last decades and centuries."

"That's what upset so many people; people don't choose to come and be a minority. This isn't like someone who chooses not to get vaccinated and then has to deal with the consequences of that," Wells said.

"I think the premier has got off on the wrong foot, almost immediately. And just given the public backlash and outrage to these particular comments, I think we're seeing some damage control start to happen."

Noting minority communities were weary of Smith being elected UCP leader because of her previous political stances, Wells said "there's a lot of bridge building that needs to happen."

"We can have lots of talk but if it isn't followed by meaningful action at the end of the day, society stays the same and discrimination continues to remain unchecked."

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Saif Kaisar 

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