Alberta union head describes ‘scrambling’ for shekels in criticism of health care payout

Labor union chief apologizes after using anti-Semitic stereotype to criticize health care payout.

Marcy Oster, JTA ,

Israeli Shekels
Israeli Shekels
iStock

The head of the largest union in Alberta, Canada, apologized a day after he used an anti-Semitic stereotype to criticize a $2-an-hour increase in pay for health-care aides.

Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees, made the statement during an interview Thursday with the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., which was later tweeted by the union.

“When [Provincial Health] Minister [Tyler] Shandro made the announcement, he sort of walked into the town square, and threw a few shekels on the ground to see who would go scrambling for it and then he just walked away,” Smith said.

The tweet was removed and Smith apologized on Friday after being called out by B’nai Brith Canada.

“President Guy Smith is using an age-old antisemitic stereotype in this public remark which is highly offensive, insulting, and derogatory. We ask for both an immediate apology and retraction of this statement on all of AUPE’s social media channels,” B’nai Brith Canada tweeted .

Shekels is the Israeli currency. Use of the term in that context evokes the stereotype of a cheap Jew.

“I unreservedly apologize to our Jewish brothers, sisters, friends and neighbors,” Smith wrote. “Yesterday, I made a statement which I have since learned is not acceptable and has impacted many people and entire communities in hurtful ways. I used the word ‘shekels’ in a manner that I was ignorant of. I own up to my ignorance knowing how dangerous ignorance is. I have since learned with help from members of the Jewish community, that this term and the way I used it is unacceptable, hurtful, and is anti-Semitic.”



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