November 30, 2023

A prominent cardiologist, Dr. Eva Lonn, at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. is under review by the university for comments made on social media about pro-Palestinian protests, calling for rallygoers to be deported.

“The post does not align with our values in advancing inclusive excellence or responsibilities as healthcare educators and professionals,” reads an emailed statement from a McMaster University spokesperson. “This matter is being reviewed by the university in alignment with university policies and will be addressed promptly and according to these policies. All parties involved have the right to confidentiality. As such, employment matters are not discussed on a specific case basis.”

Dr. Lonn is the medical director of cardiac health and rehabilitation at McMaster University, as well as a professor of medicine at the university’s medical school. The seasoned medical practitioner commented on a New York Post article on LinkedIn, about a pro-Palestinian protest in Brooklyn, New York, writing “deport them all to where they came from.”

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The post was flagged on social media websites and led to Dr. Lonn issuing a public apology on X, formerly known as Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

“I am deeply sorry for the pain my recent comments on social media have caused. Regardless of my intent, the harm inflicted was real and undeniable. I wholeheartedly apologize for my poorly worded and problematic statement,” wrote Dr. Lonn in her public statement, insisting her comments had been made in the “heat of the moment.”

Dr. Lonn said her comments were meant to target protestors using “hurtful” language that supported violence directed toward Jewish people. She said she was unaware of the weight of her words. But, Dr. Lonn’s comments have been denounced, especially in light of her role as a medical educator.

“These types of comments are unacceptable, completely, especially coming from a physician,” said Dr. Aliya Khan, a professor of medicine at McMaster University.

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Dr. Khan said the comments about deportation are deeply troubling, especially coming from a physician who should be practicing medicine without bias and discrimination.

“Comments like this indicate that that person holds negative sentiment towards individuals of that particular racial group or religious group. And I would be concerned about the type of care they provide to members of that particular group,” Dr. Khan said.

From her perspective, Dr. Lonn said in a statement to Global News she has seen a “diverse community” of patients while practicing in Hamilton and has always done her best to serve every single patient she sees, regardless of background. But, coming from a position of power, especially as a professor at McMaster, her actions can impact the learning experience for medical students, according to Dr. Khan.

“The power dynamic in university favours professors. Negative comments like this are intimidating for students, and it creates an environment in which the student is not able to fully benefit from the learning experience,” she said.

The comments made by Dr. Lonn about the pro-Palestinian protest are troubling for Yara Shoufani, a member of the Palestinian Youth Movement, which has organized the largest rallies since the Oct. 7th attack by Hamas.

“I think that these comments reflect a broader attempt that we’ve been seeing, which is to dehumanize Palestinian people,” she said.

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Shoufani noted that with hate crimes on the rise against Muslims and Palestinians, making calls to deport them adds fuel to a combustible fire.

“I think for me, as also an alumni of McMaster University, I feel appalled at these comments. Under no circumstance should a professor at a public institution and a doctor be advocating for the deportation of Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims for exercising their right to protest,” she said.

She added that Dr. Lonn has an alleged history of making xenophobic and troubling posts dating back to 2019. That particular year, she made two posts about American congresswoman Ilhan Omar, one of the few Muslim elected officials, insisting she was a part of ISIS, a terrorist organization, and telling her to go to them.

“Go to your ISIS friends and stay there,” read one of the posts, while another said “ISIS in the US Congress supported by Dem leadership,” under a news article about Omar.

From her perspective, Dr. Lonn said in her statement to Global News, those comments to Omar were made after she used an antisemitic trope to speak about the money Jewish people had.

But a year later, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she commented under a post saying the coronavirus was the “Wuhan virus”. The following year, she made controversial posts about Palestinians, in particular a 2021 post saying that they should go to Jordan.

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“Maybe relocate the Palestinians to Jordan a land created in fact for them,” she wrote on X.

Shoufani noted that Dr. Lonn’s claim that her deportation comments happened in the heat of the moment falls flat in contrast with what she has written historically about Palestinians.

“I think it’s very clear, based on the previous comments that she’s made, that this is a regular pattern. Calls to deport Muslim and Palestinian and Arab communities are things that she’s engaged in before,” she said.

Dr. Lonn also “liked” a post on social media platform X, with a visual highlighting violence committed by Muslims, but who act as victims when they receive push-back. When asked about her relationship with Muslims. Dr. Lonn said in her statement to Global that she has relationships with Muslim people.

“I pride myself on the relationships I’ve built with people of all backgrounds and faiths, including many within the Muslim community,” wrote Lonn.

Tabassum Wyne is the executive director of the Muslim Advisory Council of Canada. Earlier this year they conducted a study with help from McMaster about Islamophobia in healthcare.

“Calling for mass deportations is unacceptable,” Wynne said. “Racism and discrimination in healthcare impact real lives, it’s so troublesome.”

Since her posts went public, Dr. Lonn has received a lot of backlash, including some threats. Dr, Lonn said she had been in contact with police to launch a complaint. Hamilton Police confirmed that they had received a complaint on Saturday, which is being handled by the hate crime unit. In the meantime, Dr. Lonn has deactivated her social media accounts and said that she wants to use this moment to heal.

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“I am taking this moment as a profound learning experience. It’s a stark reminder of the power and reach of our words, especially on a public platform. I pledge to be more careful, compassionate, and considerate in my future interactions,” said Dr. Lonn in her statement to Global.

Wyne noted that hateful rhetoric being sent toward Dr. Lonn is uncalled for, but she does need to take accountability.

“An apology is appreciated, but there needs to be accountability. She needs to be held accountable for posting such things on social media. It wasn’t just one post, it was multiple social media posts spreading hatred,” Wyne said.

The onus is now on McMaster University, according to Wyne, who said they need to show that hatred has no space on campus.

“[They need to show] that anyone promoting Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian hate or antisemitism, especially within health care institutions, should face measures for spreading hate, will face consequences,” she said.

McMaster did not provide a timeline for when it will complete its review.

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