On March 28 I read of an agenda item, entitled "Repealing the 'Entering PEO Office Protocols', in the upcoming 556th Meeting of the Council of Professional Engineers Ontario, Friday March 31, 2023. Prepared by Mr. Gregory Wowchuk and seconded by Mr. Royden Fraser, two highly placed PEO Council members, it appeared to be an attempt to align PEO office protocols associated with pandemic safety with protocols in other institutions. However, the tone and wording were reminiscent of misguided truckers and online anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists:
- "Current mutations of the virus are transmissible, but not dangerous..."
- "There is small—but significant—risk of injury or death from the shots..."
- "Created two classes of persons inside PEO..."
And, then, I saw the link to the anti-vaccine conspiracy theory website "Canadian Covid-Care Alliance" and its "Pfizer COVID inoculations for COVID-19: More Harm than Good" video. The website now comes with a disclaimer:
"Do not make any decisions based on the information contained or presented on this website without consulting an appropriate professional."CCCA Disclaimer.
PEO should not be referencing this material at all. Not for policy decisions. Not for engineering decisions.
The following is my reaction as an open letter to the Council of the Professional Engineers of Ontario.
March 28, 2023
Dear members of PEO Council,
I am deeply troubled by the inclusion of anti-vax conspiracies in the agenda of the upcoming PEO Council meeting. The organization linked to, the “Canadian Covid Care Alliance”, advocates for using dangerous and discredited treatments, such as Ivermectin, on COVID patients (see screenshot below).
The inclusion of these conspiracies in a PEO document poses an unacceptable risk to both the public and the Regulator itself. What happens if, during a future complaint investigation, these conspiracies are used as evidence that the Regulator is compromised and incapable of making objective assessments? This is a very real threat to the legitimacy of PEO.
Professional Engineers don’t add pixie dust to concrete mix. Professional Engineers don’t bless airplanes with holy water. Likewise, PEO’s Council should not peddle anti-vaccine conspiracies.
It is your responsibility to uphold the integrity of our noble Profession. Conspiracy theories have no place in PEO. During Friday’s meeting it is important that you reject the Agenda as it is currently written. Strike it down. Do it officially and make it clear that the Professional Engineers of Ontario stand for evidence, for applied Science and for the safety of the public.
Dr. James Andrew Smith P.Eng.
The letter was submitted to the PEO Council Secretariat (email: email@example.com) and I received confirmation that it was forwarded to the current President of PEO and Chair of the Council, Mr. Nick Colucci. I was assured by the Secretariat team that Mr. Nick Colucci had forwarded the letter to all current members of Council (2022-23).
To those who have pointed out that Ivermectin has uses in human medical treatments, too, you are correct. And, we all know that it came to prominence when it flew of the shelves in vet clinics and animal hospitals during the pandemic. Regardless, it's not supposed to be used to treat COVID.
James Andrew Smith is a Professional Engineer and Associate Professor in the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science Department of York University's Lassonde School, with degrees in Electrical and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Alberta and McGill University. Previously a program director in biomedical engineering, his research background spans robotics, locomotion, human birth and engineering education. While on sabbatical in 2018-19 with his wife and kids he lived in Strasbourg, France and he taught at the INSA Strasbourg and Hochschule Karlsruhe and wrote about his personal and professional perspectives. James is a proponent of using social media to advocate for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion as well as evidence-based applications of research in the public sphere. You can find him on Twitter. Originally from Québec City, he now lives in Toronto, Canada.
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