Kamloops Chamber executive director defends controversial Facebook posts

John Perks, 29, shared Facebook posts about climate change, drug users, pro-life advocates

  • Mar. 23, 2019 12:30 p.m.

––Kamloops This Week

The man hired to be the new executive director of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce suddenly changed the privacy settings on his Facebook page on Friday morning after contents of some posts began circulating on social media.

The chamber announced on Thursday afternoon that 29-year-old John Perks has been hired to succeed longtime executive director Deb McClelland, who stepped down at the end of 2018 to focus on a business venture.

Shortly after the hiring announcement, some of Perk’s recently shared Facebook posts began to get noticed, including a post that denies climate change is real, a post that refers to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau as an “idiot.”

Other posts refer to those with substance use disorder as “junkies” and a post that claims the migrant caravan from Central America to Mexico was staged for the media.

There is also a post Perks shared that states pro-choice advocates should be forced to watch an abortion procedure and a post referring to Muslims that is incorrectly attributed to a quote by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “When Muslims are in the minority, they are very concerned with minority rights; when they are in the majority there are no minority rights.”

In defence of the posts, Perks told Kamloops This Week that he did not know his Facebook page was public and that anyone who knows him would not conclude what the posts might otherwise lead them to believe.

One post is a screenshot that implies climate change is along the same lines as “unicorns, Superman, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, the tooth fairy and old washed up communists becoming president” — referring to Bernie Sanders, who was featured in the posts’s content.

But Perks said that he does, indeed, believe in human-caused climate change “100 per cent” and was only sharing the post to highlight the absurdity of the comment.

Three screenshots of Facebook posts shared by John Perks. (Kamloops This Week)

Another was a meme post that read, “When your Liberal friend finally wakes up… And thanks you for making him realize Justin Trudeau is an idiot!”

When asked why he — now the chamber’s executive director and someone who will be liaising with government of all levels, including federal, on a regular basis — would share a post calling the prime minister an idiot, Perks said he didn’t recall ever doing so.

“Justin Trudeau is a smart and intelligent man. He’s the prime minister of Canada,” Perks said. “He is due respect and the honour to be in that office. There has to be healthy dialogue if there are differences and that’s what I believe in.”

Another post shared by Perks purports the migrant caravan that travelled to the United States’ southern border was staged for the media.

“My point of posting that was not to say anything about the border wall or security, it was that I couldn’t believe the media is exploiting this crisis in Honduras and exploiting women and children at risk,” he said.

Other recent posts on Perks’ page include pro-Donald Trump and anti-Democrat messages. He said he was a Trump supporter and he admits he was at one point.

READ MORE: Ex-Liberal candidate in Burnaby says volunteer wrote controversial post

“I went to his inauguration, but there’s a lot of things I do not agree with — about 90 per cent,” he said.

In January, Perks shared an image celebrating Trump’s national emergency declaration for funding the country’s controversial southern border wall. The image also denigrated former president Barack Obama’s emergency declarations to lift sanctions preventing aid to countries like Libya, Yemen, Somalia and Ukraine.

Perks also shared posts from the alt-right news website Breitbart, though he told KTW he did not know what Breitbart was.

Perks also shared a post by Facebook page National Conservative News Network Canada, a far-right website similar to Breitbart. The post compared the cost of epinephrine pens to the cost of Narcan and referred to drug-users as “junkies.”

“The messed-up part of that from my perspective is that there are costs behind a medical system that is supposed to be socialized,” he said.

As for drug users being referred to as “junkies,” Perks’ defence of sharing the post was that he has a close family member who suffers from substance use. He said it is not prejudiced against drug users.

“Like I said, I didn’t know anybody else would see that. I probably have 2,000 friend requests waiting. I don’t add everybody to my personal Facebook page,” he said.

Perks said he made his Facebook page private on Friday morning because he has personal family photos on the page and wants to protect his family.

Kamloops Chamber of Commerce president Joshua Knaak said Perks went through a “rigorous” vetting process that included not only its board of directors, but also a third-party consultant.

“We saw enough of his social media. We saw enough of him so that we were confident in the person we got,” Knaak said.

“We met the candidate on two separate occasions to get the context that I think is missing. The only way others are going to be able to get that context is to meet John and see what he does.”

Perks begins his job as executive director on Monday, March 25.

Sean Brady, Kamloops This Week

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