Montreal actress Adina Katz faced a swarm of online abuse after she was falsely identified as the woman in a campaign video for Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer.
The video, shared last week on Scheer’s Facebook page, shows him chatting about health care with a woman who identifies herself as Adina, a cancer survivor who is supporting him in the upcoming federal election.
“They were calling me a liar, a terrible actress, an immoral person, immoral actress, that I’m being paid to pass myself off as a cancer survivor, all that kind of thing,” Katz told As It Happens guest host Nil Köksal.
“It was just out of control. So much cruelty for something that I didn’t even have anything to do with.”
Katz was on vacation in Connecticut last week when she got a text from a friend that there were “weird tweets” going around about her.
When she logged on, she found herself at the centre of a partisan storm.
“I stayed up all night trying to track these people down telling them to stop it and it’s not me,” she said. “They were either just calling me a liar or they said, ‘Nobody cares about you anyway, you don’t matter.'”
The misinformation appears to have originated with a Twitter account called Alberta Resistance, which posted a screenshot of the Scheer video alongside Katz’s bio, with the text: “Andrew Scheer has to hire people to pretend to be random people who like him for awkward photo ops.”
The account, which has since been been suspended, later issued an apology and deleted the tweet — but not before it was shared hundreds of times, including by several high-profile accounts.
Former Liberal MP Marlene Jennings and TV pundit Rob Silver have both apologized for sharing the tweet. Silver is married to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s chief-of-staff.
Dear Ms Katz, as one who retweeted those that speculated you might be the woman in Scheer’s ad due to resemblance, I apologize to you without reservation.
1. I’m sorry for retweeting something that had inaccurate information in it. I have deleted the tweet so it is not spread further
2. Why in the world does my wife owes you anything for something I tweeted, Brock? I am my own person. I expect crap like that from trolls, not you. https://t.co/slgg4D93Qp
But the apologies are too little, too late, says Katz.
“I’m not satisfied with their apologies because they’re not really genuinely taking responsibility for their actions of one human to another, or a group of humans to another,” she said.
“They sneak in, ‘Oh, but there was a resemblance,’ or ‘Oh, but this party often does this’ … and, you know, they just continue to use me as a pawn to either protect themselves or to say something nasty about the other parties.”
‘Treat one another like human beings’
But the hardest part for Katz, she said, was being accused of imitating a cancer survivor.
“My father died of cancer, my two uncles died of cancer, I have friends who died of cancer and, of course, I know other people who thankfully survived, but still watched them struggle while they did have cancer. And it’s just disgusting to say that to me,” she said.
“It was just really painful and really struck a nerve for me.”
The replies are dying down now, says Katz, and she’s starting to feel better. She credits her “strong, supportive network of family and friends” for getting her through the worst of it.
“I fear for those people who don’t have that kind of network,” she said. “I can understand how people get depressed or suicidal or it’s just really, scary — really, really scary.”
Reached for comment, Scheer’s campaign decried the “gutter-style smear” against Katz.
“The moment captured in the video was authentic, and the woman was an everyday Canadian voter who was excited about Andrew Scheer’s plan to invest in public health care,” spokesperson Simon Jeffries said in an emailed statement.
Katz says she’s not a supporter of Scheer, but that she doesn’t blame him for what happened.
Meanwhile, she is hoping to use this experience to raise awareness about online misinformation and harassment ahead of this fall’s federal election campaign.
“I think people need to be really careful about what they’re reading, what they’re sharing, what they’re saying to make sure to base their opinions on what can come as close to fact as possible,” she said.
“And just treat one another like human beings with common decency, just basic respect and don’t be so cruel.”
Written by Sheena Goodyear. Interview with Adina Katz produced by Ashley Mak.