• Former Canadian ICU doctor is suing Queen’s University for allegedly pushing him out of his job for publicly opposing COVID-19 lockdowns and mask mandates.
• He wrote colourfully, forcefully and sparred with the media.
• He is suing Queen’s University for academic freedom and workplace behaviour.
Dr. Matt Strauss, a former Canadian intensive care doctor and former Assistant Professor of Medicine at Queen’s University, is suing the university for alleged wrongful dismissal from his job. Strauss publicly opposed COVID-19 lockdowns and mask mandates, which he shared on Twitter and in essays published by British and Canadian news sites. His views were counter to official responses and prevailing medical advice, and he drew criticism from left-wing media. He claims to have been dismissed from his job due to voicing these unpopular opinions.
The lawsuit highlights the deep divisions and acrimony over pandemic responses, as well as issues of academic freedom and workplace behaviour. Strauss is also a vocal critic of Justin Trudeau and Joe Biden, and a supporter of Pierre Poilievre and Alberta’s UCP, which some consider red flags. Despite the criticism he has received, Strauss believes public opinion is shifting in his favour.
Dr. Matt Strauss, a former Canadian intensive care doctor, is suing Queen’s University, alleging he was pushed out of his job for publicly opposing COVID-19 lockdowns and mask mandates. The National Post has the story.
When the frightening, frantic first waves of COVID-19 hit Canada in March 2020, Dr. Matt Strauss worked in intensive care at a Kingston, Ontario hospital, and taught at Queen’s University medical school.
He volunteered for extra shifts at Kingston Health Sciences Centre to help with the crush of patients, but a much less dramatic development now anchors his public place in the pandemic: He started sharing his thoughts about pandemic response.
He wrote short posts on Twitter and long form essays published by a British news magazine and Canadian news sites. He argued against wide lockdowns and mask mandates and in support of interventions focussed on people most at risk. Many of his thoughts were counter to official responses and prevailing medical advice.
He wrote colourfully, forcefully. He once tweeted, “I would sooner give my children COVID-19 than a McDonald’s happy meal.”
He sparred in the media and with the media.
A Toronto Star columnist called him an “anti-public health doctor” after Strauss was appointed the acting Medical Officer of Health for Haldimand-Norfolk, in southwestern Ontario.
In retort, Strauss wrote a piece of his own, published in National Post, dismissing the criticism as an attack by “left-wing media”.
Strauss became seen as something of a flag bearer for a side of the increasingly divisive pandemic opinion that did not have many strong voices within Canada’s medical community. It pushed him onto the stage of a strident public debate.
“I was new to all of this,” Strauss said in an interview this week. “I hadn’t been in a firestorm like that before.”
He didn’t grasp the gravity of the pushback until he learned his belongings had been cleared out of his university office and placed in a cardboard box, he said. His sudden office reallocation had the look and feel of being fired when he went to collect the box from a departmental secretary, he said, although he hadn’t been.
“It was a very tangible moment,” Strauss said. “Up until that point, it seemed to be irresponsible, anonymous Twitter accounts and then, suddenly, the administration where I was working was listening to those anonymous accounts.”
His published tweets and articles continued, and more than anonymous Twitter accounts raised concern.
It wasn’t that he was an utter rogue.
“I was a real vaccine booster. I got the vaccine rate up,” he said. “I’ve never promoted fringe therapies. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I’m extremely skeptical of conspiracy theories… I’m also skeptical of vaccine mandates.”
At that peculiar time, at least, there was little room for debate.
“We seemed to have forgotten how to agree to disagree. That kind of live and let live feeling seemed to be lost in the darker days of the pandemic,” he said. “And a lot of that division was predicated on what has now been shown to be the inaccurate claim that by controlling other people’s lives you can control the spread of COVID-19.”
Strauss’s interest in debate, scepticism and personal freedom extends beyond pandemic response and medicine. It moves him to share on social media about politics and economics in a way that allows detractors to place him as a firm conservative partisan.
He has drawn positive attention in social media by figures such as Joe Rogan, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and Jordan Peterson. He is deeply critical of Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Joe Biden and supportive of Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre and Alberta’s United Conservative Party.
For many of his detractors, those are confirmatory red flags. Strauss, though, said he sees mainstream public opinion shifting in his favour.
Meanwhile, Strauss has been working to settle another score induced by the pandemic, this time in a court of justice rather than the court of public opinion.
He is suing Queen’s University and the head of the school’s Department of Medicine, where he was an Assistant Professor of Medicine from July 2019 to November 2021. He claims he was pushed out of his job for voicing unpopular opinions about pandemic management.
He filed his statement of claim in October 2022. The school and its medical school head, Dr. Stephen Archer, filed their statement of defence this July, and Strauss, in turn, filed his reply soon after.
The lawsuit, through allegations and cross-allegations, highlights the depth of division and acrimony over pandemic responses, and raises issues of academic freedom and workplace behaviour.