The controversial political slate VIVA Victoria says it has “parted ways” with a person connected to the organization who is accused of impersonating Island Health in an email endorsing VIVA candidates.
The email, sent early Monday morning, claims to be from the “Director Child Care Services” and was sent from the email address [email protected]. Official Island Health email addresses use the “@islandhealth.ca” domain and not Gmail.
Addressing “Victoria and area daycares,” the fake email touts candidates for mayor, council and school trustees that it says “share our values” of “fair and inclusive” learning as well as “safer and more accessible” streets.
“There are many candidates running and we understand it may be a daunting task to sift through all the information to determine which are the best candidates, representing views which align with those of us in the field of child care,” the email states.
Island Health confirmed to CHEK News that it did not send the email and would never endorse political candidates.
On Monday afternoon, VIVA Victoria issued a statement on its website saying it has fired the person accused of sending out the email.
“The email was the subject of much discussion on social media and allegations were made that VIVA Victoria had sent this email in an attempt to sway voters. This email was a complete and utter surprise to our organization and we immediately issued a statement disavowing authorship,” the organization said.
“Since that time, more information has been published concerning the alleged origin of this email and an individual connected with our Elector Organization has been accused of sending it. As a result of these allegations we have parted ways with this individual and they are no longer affiliated with VIVA Victoria.”
VIVA added that it has been trying to involve “ordinary people” in the campaign as candidates, organizers and volunteers, and said it condemns any efforts to misinform the public.
In addition to the entire VIVA slate being listed in the email, it also “endorsed” independent candidate Stephen Andrew for mayor, Jordan Quitzau — who isn’t affiliated with VIVA but has previously served as CEO of the Southern Vancouver Island EDA for the PPC Association, and trustee candidate Judith Zulu.
Andrew swiftly released a statement Monday condemning the sender’s actions.
“This was a feeble and poorly executed attempt to misinform voters,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. I absolutely reject the endorsement from this anonymous individual or group of individuals.”
Angie Maddix, an in-home multi-age daycare operator, said she received the email and even though there were clear signs it wasn’t from Island Health, she didn’t notice them right away.
“It took me a minute and honestly, if I hadn’t known what VIVA was by asking other people, I’m not sure I would have thought twice” she told CHEK News.
VIVA Victoria, which is running candidates for Victoria council and school trustees, has been criticized by the Canadian Anti-Hate Network for being a far-right group with ties to the People’s Party of Canada.
A number of its candidates also publicly hold views that SOGI 1-2-3, a provincial program that mandates inclusive spaces for LGBTQI2S+ students, should be repealed.
Last week, VIVA council candidate Jeremy Maddock said the slate was focused on “the teaching of facts and to ensure the school is not a place to moralize children. The role of family, and the community is to instill the right moral values. The role of the school is to ensure that our kids can read, and write.”
This is very wrong. My wife is an Island Health employee and many of her colleagues got this fake email. Let’s keep misinformation and far-right reactionary politics out of local elections. #yyj #yyjpoli #victoriabc pic.twitter.com/RMCjUNPoqQ
— Matt Dell (@mattdellok) October 3, 2022
Independent council candidate Matt Dell said he’s concerned that some recipients might not be aware of the VIVA platform and vote for its candidates based on the fake Island Health email.
“Misinformation is a major issue in our society these days. It’s so easy to spread misinformation, it’s easy to astroturf fake community associations…it harms our democracy and it harms our community, where we’re supposed to be bringing people together.”
Civic elections take place in 12 days across British Columbia. For more information on Vancouver Island mayor, council and trustee races and candidates, head to CHEK’s municipal elections page.