SURREY (NEWS 1130) – An American environmentalist will speak at the Surrey Board of Trade later this year but his stance on vaccinations has prompted a social media backlash and demands for his keynote address to be cancelled.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. — son of the late senator and U.S. attorney general — is scheduled to speak on Sept. 17 at the 13th Annual Surrey Environment and Business Awards Lunch.
Doctors, public health experts and parents are taking to Twitter to object to Kennedy’s invitation.
Wow. Surrey, do better . There are a million business/trade/visionary people you could use that don’t advocate for policies that will kill Surrey’s children.
— Tyler Black, MD (@tylerblack32) June 16, 2019
The man is a danger to public health and should not be given a welcome mat let alone be labeled a visionary. Consider that this platform helps normalize his viewpoints, which are both irrational and immoral
— Jason Kindrachuk, PhD (@KindrachukJason) June 16, 2019
This is highly disappointing. Robert Kennedy has no business being in Canada, let alone speaking to a board of trade.
He is a dangerous and reckless man.
— Courtland Sandover-Sly (@C0URTLANDS) June 15, 2019
Surrey Board of Trade CEO Anita Huberman says they have no plans to cancel his keynote because the event will not feature any discussion of vaccinations.
“It is unfortunate, his position on anti-vaccination. However as a business organization we’re focusing on clean technology,” she says, adding: “I completely understand the comments around his position but we’re hoping people will still attend.”
Kennedy is the Chairman of the Board of Children’s Health Defense, an organization that describes itself as working on behalf of “vaccine-injured children.” He claims that vaccinations cause autism, ADHD and ADD.
The organization’s website says that “studies link vaccines and toxic vaccine ingredients to a wide range of adverse health outcomes, including seizures, neurodevelopmental disorders, and infant death.”
Pediatrician says hosting Kennedy is questionable
Meantime, a pediatrician-scientist says claims made by Kennedy and his organization have damaged public trust in vaccines.
Peter Hotez is Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine in Houston, he says Kennedy’s claims vaccines cause autism and ADHD just aren’t true.
“The group has no scientific basis to say that,” he says. “And so I’ve been working hard to counter the phony misinformation messages about vaccines.”
While Kennedy is an environmental activist, Hotez says he should stick to the subject and avoid speaking of vaccines at the event.
“I think if he keeps his comments to his role as an environmental attorney, I don’t see a lot of damage to that, but if he starts drifting into the misinformation campaign about vaccines, that’s harmful,” he says.
“His organization has done a lot of damage in terms of eroding vaccine confidence in this country without any scientific evidence, so I am concerned whenever he speaks.”
Kennedy’s views are characteristic of the anti-vaccination movement, with proponents known as anti-vaxxers, who argue that the measles, mumps and rubella or MMR vaccine causes autism. The U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Health Canada say there is no scientific link between vaccines and autism.
Earlier this week actress Jessica Biel faced criticism for appearing alongside Kennedy to speak against a California bill that would limit medical exemptions to vaccinations.
Kennedy’s biography on the Surrey Board of Trade web page describes him as “an agent of change among environmental activists.” He is a lawyer and the co-founder of Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental organization focused on water conservation and a partner in Silicon Valley’s VantagePoint Ventures Partners’ CleanTech investment team.
With files from The Canadian Press and the Associated Press.