An Anti-Vax Conspiracy Theory Video Went Viral. An Indigenous Community Paid the Price.

A viral video making outlandish claims has strained a First Nation’s resources as it rushes to debunk them.
Mack Lamoureux
Toronto, CA
Anya Zoledziowski
Toronto, CA
October 20, 2021, 3:05pm
A tall tale about vaccine-crazed military members hunting Indigenous women and children in the freezing Canadian North began to spread earlier this week, forcing an Indigenous community in Saskatchewan to urgently disprove the story.
Pat King during one of his recent live streams. Photo via Facebook Live.

A tall tale about vaccine-crazed military members hunting Indigenous women and children in the freezing Canadian North began to spread earlier this week, forcing an Indigenous community in Saskatchewan to urgently disprove the story.

Pat King, a man well known in the COVID conspiracy movement, and two Indigenous women posted a video on Facebook on Sunday night that told the (false) story of a northern Saskatchewan community—Black Lake Denesuline First Nation—where the military has set up base and are forcing unvaccinated women and children to “get the jab.” Those who didn’t want to get vaccinated were instead forced to flee their homes into the freezing wilderness, King claimed.

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“I need you to share this out everywhere as far and wide as you can. We have military personnel chasing women and children through the bush in Black Lake, Saskatchewan, on the border of the Northwest Territories,” says a bearded King in the video. “They are chasing them into the bush and it is cold, it is friggin’ cold.”

“Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it ain’t happening. Stop turning a freaking blind eye to this.”

The thing is, it is not happening—in any way—but the video was shared far and wide; it had more than 180,000 views on Facebook before it was deleted on Tuesday evening. Despite being removed from King’s page, many ripped versions can be easily found on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Bitchute, and elsewhere. The quick spread of the video shows just how easy it is for popular conspiracy accounts to quickly affect the lives of people hundreds of kilometres away. 

Allan Adam, the CEO of Athabasca Health Authority (AHA), which oversees five communities in northern Saskatchewan, including Black Lake First Nation, said the video amounts to harmful misinformation. Several community members have called the health authority in an “uproar, disappointed that this information is getting out about something that’s not even real,” he said. 

“There is really nothing going on… Misinformation hurts community members for nothing when they are trying hard to combat COVID and get people vaccinated,” Adam said.

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Black Lake, a remote First Nation with about 2,255 members, is encouraging physical distancing and vaccinations to mitigate the spread of COVID, he said. No one is being forced to get jabbed, and vaccine uptake is increasing by the day, AHA confirmed. In the summer, the community made headlines when it grappled with a serious COVID outbreak and a vaccination rate significantly lower than rates in other communities served by AHA.

The claims in King’s video came about a week after Black Lake First Nation and an adjacent community confirmed they managed to control a tuberculosis outbreak. Thirteen people contracted the bacterial infection. 

Black Lake issued its own statement on Monday denouncing King’s video.

“Chief and Council in Black Lake First Nation, Saskatchewan, strongly refute statements made in a careless Facebook video posted by The Real Pat King… These statements are not true,” Black Lake First Nation said. The First Nation added that forced vaccinations aren’t part of the community’s COVID strategy, and community members’ personal choices and freedoms are supported. 

After the video surfaced, “concerned citizens” started contacting the community, and “it’s exhausting our resources,” Blake Lake First Nation’s statement says. 

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Some people who've tried to get in touch with the Black Lake band office have said that RCMP are investigating. Saskatchewan RCMP told VICE World News they “could not comment” on whether there was an investigation ongoing. 

After Black Lake leaders denounced all of King’s statements, King apologized in a new video for spreading false information. The new video only has a fifth of the views than the original. In it King shifted the blame to the Indigenous women who spoke in the video. 

“Sorry it caused such a big ruckus in your band,” he said. “Just understand things happened and people are just concerned because things that are happening around us; they’re concerning people.”

Immediately after the apology, King, who describes himself as an “investigative journalist,” shared more unsubstantiated stories, this time about how COVID patients are being treated in a Saskatchewan hospital.

King has for years been involved in right-wing organizing in Western Canada. He was one of the main Yellow Vest organizers in Alberta and a co-founder of the Wexit (Alberta separation) movement. He gained national media attention for protesting against an anti-racism event. Recently he’s been active in the anti-lockdown and anti-vaccine community. His claims aren’t consistent, but they usually call into question whether COVID is real and compare vaccine campaigns to genocide. 

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Recently, King has been spending time at an Indigenous encampment on the Edmonton legislature grounds. In several videos, he claims he has secret documents that prove the government is targeting Indigenous people with a “deadly” vaccine. A lot of  his latest work has been tying the struggle of Indigenous peoples to his “fight for freedom” against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 

Adam from the Athabasca Health Authority, who is Dene, said that King’s attempts to align himself with Indigenous peoples amounts to an attempt to “gain attention that’s not going anywhere.”

“He is trying to log onto something that is really not his business and benefit from it. In the end he’s just another tumbleweed,” Adam said, adding that King’s latest behaviour harms everyone, especially Indigenous communities. 

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King as he apologizes to Black Lake First Nation. Photo via Facebook live.

King’s so-called investigative journalism “goes no further than repeating claims made by people that confirm what he already thinks. If he believes it, than he considers the information to have been ‘vetted,’” said Kurt Phillips, a board member of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network who has long followed King’s activities. “The more outlandish the claims the better because Pat can then believe he is fighting and exposing powerful forces.”

In the summer, King went viral for attempting to take the government to court for lockdowns and then subsequently claiming Alberta ended its pandemic-related lockdowns because King himself disproved COVID (he did not). King was at first deemed a hero of the movement but it quickly came out that he misread court documents. (He continues to claim he was correct.) In all of King’s gambits, he asks his followers for donations to help him in his “freedom fighting” mission against whatever villain he is fighting that week.

King’s track record of spreading incorrect information is catching up with him: even figures active in the right-wing conspiracy community urged their followers to not believe King’s video about Black Lake.

“The only source is Pat King,” wrote Dan Dicks, a well-known conspiracy vlogger. “Completely unsubstantiated claims are being pushed; he’s proven he can’t be trusted before. Be wary of those who push fake news for views!”

Follow Anya and Mack on Twitter.