Organizers of a controversial natural-health conference have cancelled the appearance of an anti-vaccine activist who had been scheduled as a headline speaker at the April event.
The change comes after The Globe and Mail reported that Del Bigtree, who spreads false information about what he describes as the dangers of vaccines and a vast government conspiracy to cover them up, was to appear at the Total Health Show in Toronto in April. Conference organizers declined an interview request on Thursday. Mr. Bigtree did not respond to an interview request.
Conference organizers also removed all sponsorship information from its website. The Total Health Show had previously listed a number of entities as sponsors, including the Canadian Organic Growers, NewsTalk 1010 and Healthy Planet, an official partner of the Toronto Raptors.
In an e-mail, Wayne Adams, executive director of Canadian Organic Growers, said the organization is not a sponsor of the show and did not authorize organizers to use its name. The group’s Toronto chapter is scheduled to be there as an exhibitor this year, but is reconsidering whether it will appear, Mr. Adams said.
Bell Media, parent company of NewsTalk 1010, declined an interview request. In a statement, the company says it is not a sponsor of the Total Health Show. Debby de Groot, a public relations professional who represents the conference organizers, said the Total Health Show purchases ads on NewsTalk 1010.
In an e-mailed statement, a spokeswoman for Healthy Planet said the company will continue as a sponsor and exhibitor at the conference now that Mr. Bigtree’s appearance has been cancelled.
The Total Health Show has been running for more than 40 years, according to the conference’s Facebook page, and expects approximately 15,000 people to attend. It will feature 60 speakers and 200 exhibitors, according to promotional posters for this year’s event.
In an e-mailed statement, the organizers said “misinformation is being circulated" about the 2019 speakers and topics. The show is “an open forum” and organizers “welcome competing views and opinions from speakers on these very important topics for the Canadian consumer.”
When asked to clarify what misinformation is being spread, Ms. de Groot said that some of the speakers referenced in The Globe on Thursday were at the Total Health Show in 2018 and aren’t scheduled to appear this year. Those speakers are Zoltan Rona, a Toronto doctor who spoke at last year’s conference about the supposed “horrors” of prescription drugs aimed at children; Heather Fraser, a board member of an anti-vaccine group who spoke about what she described as the risks of vaccines; and a California naturopath who suggests prescription drugs and poor diet are responsible for gun violence.
In addition to being promoted as a headline speaker at this year’s Total Health Show, Mr. Bigtree also appeared at the conference last year. In a video posted to the Total Health Show Facebook page, Mr. Bigtree can be heard making a number of false statements, such as accusations that the government is purposefully hiding the dangers of vaccines.
Mr. Bigtree produced a movie with Andrew Wakefield, a disgraced former doctor who falsely linked vaccines to autism. In an interview with The Globe this week, Mr. Bigtree said vaccines are dangerous and that it is his responsibility to speak out against the consensus view about the safety of them.