Cervical cancer vaccine debate: Mayor’s BBM exchange ‘disturbing’

Image caption Richardson said the request was like a ‘coaching session’

An Ontario mayor who asked a woman on the bathroom line whether her doctors had given her the C-19 vaccine against the HPV virus that causes cervical cancer has said he is looking into firing his deputy mayor.

Richardson said he had apologised to Ravi Naik for his actions, which he described as “outrageous and deeply concerning”.

Mr Naik received a social media backlash after tweeting that Mayor Naheed Nenshi had asked his opinion on the vaccine.

The revelation came as federal politicians urge parents to vaccinate against cervical cancer.

The Canadian Centre for Disease Control says the C-19 vaccine is 80% effective in preventing cervical cancer.

In a public statement on Tuesday, Richardson said he had resigned from the Canadian Football League (CFL) as soon as it was asked to consider his actions.

“For years, the CEO of the CFL has received anonymous emails that were designed to cause disunity and confusion amongst the playing staff,” Mr Richardson said.

“Following up on these anonymous tips, a few weeks ago, my private assistant asked me if I would consider calling an end to a regrettable distraction in City Hall.”

Mr Richardson’s wife, Paulette Johnson, has held the position of deputy mayor since 2014.

She said the mayor’s behaviour was “disturbing and disgusting” but added: “But if you can’t rise above a locker room environment, why should anyone else care about you as a person?”

Politicians and pundits hit back on social media, labelling Mr Richardson’s actions as sexist and an “alarmingly invasive question”.

The Globe and Mail newspaper interviewed Ms Johnson in August when she was still the deputy mayor.

“I said: ‘Well, Mr Mayor, one of the things I would say to you is that my husband and I talked about the importance of women wearing dentures, and a few people would say my husband is an idiot’, she said.

She later received the call from Mr Nenshi that she was asked about.

Following the news of her husband’s actions, Ms Johnson said she felt “shame, embarrassment and shame”.

“My head is still spinning. To my now two and a half year old nephew who knows nothing about this, I want to tell him that I am sorry he was traumatised by this.”

Alarmingly invasive question?

Video caption

Responding to comments on Twitter, Mr Nenshi issued a statement through his office, which said: “On a certain day there are low points in any leader’s life.

“For me, like many people, there have been times over the last four years when I thought I couldn’t get past a bridge I had crossed. It seems that day has come.”

He apologised for his actions and urged “everyone in Calgary to help me try to understand why or how something like this could happen and how it can be avoided in the future”.

There are currently three government campaigns in Canada to encourage girls aged 11 to 17 to get the HPV vaccine for free from public healthcare centres or their doctors.

Federal Conservative MP Pierre Poilievre called on health ministers across the country to follow Manitoba’s lead in unveiling a plan to persuade parents to vaccinate their daughters against HPV.

“Parents should not be afraid of an HPV vaccination,” Mr Poilievre said.

In 2015, the cervical cancer case rate in Canada fell to its lowest level in 17 years, experts said.

Some 19,000 cases of cervical cancer are reported every year in Canada.

Cervical cancer can be prevented through vaccination.

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