On June 8, the Halifax Examiner reported on the role of doctors in the debate over gun control in Canada. Quoted extensively in that article was Dr. Michael Ackermann, a family and emergency physician in Sherbrooke, Nova Scotia, who is national vice president of the Canadian Shooting Sports Association (CSSA), and co-founder of Doctors for Firearm Safety & Responsibility (DFSR).
In a telephone interview on June 3, Ackermann told the Examiner that the DFSR formed in 2019, “basically as a response” and to counter Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, which works for increased gun control in Canada.
On June 1, the DFSR website showed that the group had nine members, although Ackermann said it had 44 members “signed up,” and those listed on its website were just the “most vocal” members.
Today, the Halifax Examiner learned that Doctors for Firearm Safety & Responsibility is no more.
In response to questions about the disappearance of the DFSR online presence and accusations about a meme it had posted, Ackermann told the Examiner that Doctors for Firearm Safety & Responsibility has “disbanded under accusations of racism” that he said are “totally unfounded.”
“Its members feared the effect of a media witch hunt on their professional careers and chose to close down,” Ackermann wrote in an email.
The racist meme
It all began with this racist meme that the Doctors for Firearm Safety & Responsibility posted on May 17.
The meme was noticed by Doctors for Protection from Guns and others who tweeted about it.
Alerted to the meme by Doctors for Protection from Guns, on June 3, Semir Bulle, a medical student and co-president of the Black Medical Students’ Association at the University of Toronto, tweeted out the meme and a thread from Doctors for Firearms Safety & Responsibility, asking: “Are these really my future colleagues?”
His tweet also included the list of DFSR member doctors from the (now disappeared) DSFR website, which prompted others on the thread to tag Queen’s and Western University, where physicians on the list had affiliations.
Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University replied almost immediately:
This content is racist and offensive and goes against the values of our organization. Schulich Medicine & Dentistry does not tolerate racism in any form and we are investigating this matter.
On June 4, Queen’s University Faculty of Health Sciences also replied:
The Faculty of Health Sciences, of which @QueensUGME is a part, does not condone racism in any form, and we take this very seriously. We are currently investigating this issue.
Meanwhile, DFSR — @docs4firearmsr — sent out a series of tweets denying that it was responsible for the meme:
1\ It has come to our attention that our Facebook page has been compromised. We have removed it in the interim while we investigate. We are equally dismayed that instead of notifying us of the offensive posts, many of our colleagues spread accusations and condemnations.
\2 Offensive material like this has never been a part of our communication strategy as demonstrated by our Twitter feed. Our counterparts at @Docs4GunControl seem to have led this reaction which is disappointing and strangely opportunistic.
3\ We did not post these offensive messages and they do not represent the values of our group.
But the very next day, DFSR’s website and Twitter account, as well as its Facebook page, had disappeared entirely, with no explanation.
Then a couple of DFSR members spoke up, contradicting the DFSR-tweeted denials that it had posted the “offensive messages.”
On June 4, one of the doctors who appeared on the original list of nine member of Doctors for Firearm Safety & Responsibility on the erstwhile DFSR website, Dr. Ken Reid, took to Twitter to denounce the group and his own affiliation with it.
Reid, an associate professor and the division chair of thoracic surgery in the Department of Surgery at Queen’s University in Ontario, acknowledged that it was a “hateful post,” but stopped short of apologizing for the meme, saying only that he was “sorry that so many people were hurt” by it:
I acknowledge that racism is prevalent in Canada and a recent posting from a Facebook page of the group Doctors for Firearm Safety and Responsibility exemplified that. I am ashamed that I was formerly associated with a group who had a member who felt that /2
it was appropriate to post something of that nature. It was blatantly racist and obviously hurtful to many people. Although it was taken down, that clearly does not erase the hurt felt by those groups indicated in the meme and doesn’t make that horrible act go away. /3
I am truly sorry that so many people were hurt by this hateful post. As a white male, I will never be able to fully understand all of the challenges that racism brings to those affected by any prejudice and I admit I have a lot to learn in that regard. /4
This has been a wakeup call for me to become more educated.
Furthermore, on reflection of my overall Twitter activity, it is apparent that my activity in terms of “liking” certain tweets was careless and ill-advised. /5
Finally, to my medical colleagues, residents, and students, I regret that the Queen’s name became associated with this whole issue by virtue of my involvement with that group.
Dr. Michael Ackermann defends the post
The Examiner sent an email to Dr. Ackermann asking for his views on the meme, and whether DFSR, which he co-founded, intends to issue an apology.
He replied with the news that DFSR had disbanded and that he is “not in a position to comment or opine on the group’s view of the meme nor what if any action was taken other than the group disbanding.”
I am willing to offer a personal opinion about the chilling of discourse and weaponisation of the accusation of racism.
I will first clarify a few things about the meme itself. I have attached the graphic for clarity.
The graphic depicts three men and one woman. The three men are in threatening poses, two brandishing weapons and one with gang tattoos. The facial expressions are all those of predatory violence. The woman is obviously a sport shooter, engaged in her chosen discipline. The gangsters are definable by their behaviour. The sport shooter as well. The text asks why Trudeau conflates the sport shooter with the gangsters.
That is ALL.
I find it totally reprehensible that this has been morphed into a race issue by certain people opposed to the DFSR group and the lawful ownership of firearms by Canada’s safest people, and I will be damned if I put up with undeserved smearing by those who would silence us by false accusations of racism.
Of the three gangsters, one is White, one Asian and one Black. Or perhaps I should change the order for fear of appearing racist? Maybe the Black man should be mentioned first? But then THAT would be construed as racist, so maybe the Asian man? But then…that would be construed as racist.
Google “inner city gang bangers” and see what pics you get. Google Olympic air rifle shooter, and see what ones you get. Reality is what it is.
I am beyond disappointed that our group so readily folded in the face of a challenge like this. By doing so we are abdicating, and allowing the opposition to have their way unopposed by Truth. Of course, speaking Truth to power has always been a dangerous thing, as ethical journalists and political activists have known for as long as there have been journalists and politics. So regardless of my disappointment, I do understand their reasons and I support my colleagues in their decisions.
Anyway, that is all I will have to say about this.
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