One of Canada’s most iconic ice cream brands has found itself in the eye of a storm on social media after an Ontario doctor’s tweet became the target of anti-vaxxers.
Chapman’s Ice Cream is one of Canada’s best-known dessert brands, made at its family-run factory in Markdale, Ontario, about two hours drive northwest of Toronto.
The company has long positioned itself as a corporate citizen, offering to purchase a neighborhood school to keep employees’ children close to home, offering freezer space for the government’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts and keeping unvaccinated employees on staff during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic as long as they had two rapid tests per week.
Now the company is embroiled in controversy over a tweet from Dr Sohail Gandhi, who went out to get some ice cream for his wife on Mother’s Day.
Doctor’s tweet about ice cream sparks ‘insults’
“I didn’t expect the response I got,” said Gandhi, a Stayner-based family physician and former president of the Ontario Medical Association.
“I baked a strawberry pie for my wife for Mother’s Day and needed some ice cream. So I went to the store, saw Chapman’s and said, ‘Hey, this is a good corporate citizen. I should support them,’ so I tweeted about them.”
Need ice cream like me? Just a reminder that @Chapmans_Canada treated its workers very well and was incredibly supportive of efforts to combat #covid at the start of the #pandemic . So support a Canadian business. Bonus-it’s really, really tasty! pic.twitter.com/puEgLLV9n3
The tweet racked up thousands of likes and hundreds of comments, and while many of them were supportive, a number were critical and even outright hateful.
“Some of the comments were basically insults,” Dr Ghandi said. “What surprised me was that there were people making allegations about how Chapman’s ran their business without having the facts to back them up.”
These tweets — from allegations of firing employees who refused to get vaccinated, to misinformation about what the company puts in its ice cream — are lies, according to Ashley Chapman, the company’s chief operating officer. .
Many of these people who have not been vaccinated, I know them, I know their families, I know they are good people.-Ashley Chapman
“A nice doctor tweets something really nice about our product and all of a sudden all these really mean people are back on the scene,” he said, referring to the fact that his company had already suffered backlash. negative online when she decided to keep workers who refused to get vaccinated on the payroll at the height of the Delta wave.
“We were very worried because we live in a small rural area, and a lot of these people who haven’t been vaccinated, I know them, I know their families, I know they’re good people.
“Being accused of segregation, medical fascism and other crazy things people call us, it just seems sad to be honest with you.”
Chapman said he didn’t want to let the good people go, so he found a compromise: They could still show up to work unvaccinated, but had to take a rapid test twice a week to prevent others from get sick.
Vaccinated workers, on the other hand, would receive a $1-per-hour raise because the company wouldn’t have to pay for the tests.
“We are not bad guys in this situation”
After pandemic health restrictions ended, Chapman said, he raised the wages of unvaccinated workers so they were on par with their vaccinated counterparts, and bought a PCR testing machine so all workers could self-sufficient. -diagnose if they had any unusual symptoms.
Chapman said he doesn’t understand why an ice cream company has become a political lightning rod, especially when it has put so much back into the community.
“We’re just decent people. We’re just trying to make a good product at a fair price. We always treat our community and our employees well, and we’re not the bad guys in this situation. As ice cream suddenly becomes be a political thing is just stupid.”
Companies make their vaccination policies public
However, “a political thing” is exactly what vaccines have become, whether they come from a maker of something as apolitical as ice cream, according to Alison Meek, associate professor of history at King’s University College in London, Ontario, which studies cults and conspiracy theories, including the anti-vaccine movement.
“I think these days there’s no way to start this conversation about vaccines without it becoming politicized.”
Meek said if companies want to be public in any way about their vaccination policies, they should expect the conversation to become politicized, especially when it involves a company as well-known as Chapman’s Ice Cream.
That’s because those who refuse to get vaccinated, Meek said, are now portraying themselves on social media as victims on a scale similar to some of the most persecuted groups in modern history.
“It’s the new African Americans of the civil rights movement or the Jews of the Holocaust because they refuse to submit,” Meek said.
“Of course, that’s ridiculous. Your choice not to be vaccinated is completely different from what we saw with Jews during the Holocaust or African Americans because of the color of their skin, but that’s just the age we’re living in.”