A Canadian Armed Forces reservist pleaded guilty on Thursday to a misconduct charge for urging military personnel not to distribute COVID-19 vaccines, which he linked to murder.
The charge of “conduct to the prejudice of good order and discipline” against Officer Cadet Ladislas Kenderesi, 60, relates to comments he made to the crowd at an anti-lockdown protest in downtown Toronto in December 2020 while in full uniform. The comments were captured on videos posted to the internet.
Kenderesi had urged military personnel to “not accept any unjust orders,” namely the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, “since we don’t know how these vaccines will act on our body now or for the next 10 years.”
COVID-19 vaccines are proven to be safe and effective.
The CAF had been enlisted by the federal government to co-ordinate the distribution of those vaccines in late 2020, after they had been authorized for use by Health Canada while the country was in the grips of the pandemic. The Ontario government hired retired general Rick Hillier to lead the rollout in the province.
“I am asking all military, including Gen. Hillier, not to comply with the government, not to be a criminal, like the rest of the government because all those who comply will eventually have blood on your hands,” Kenderesi said at the protest.
“It will come out the truth and you don’t want to be on that side of the fence when you have killed or actually murdered innocent people.”
Th military judge at Kenderesi’s court martial, Cmdr. Martin Pelletier, was expected to sentence Kenderesi later Thursday at Canadian Forces Base Borden. The prosecution and defence have jointly requested he be fined $4,200 and receive a “severe reprimand.”
Kenderesi, his voice at times breaking, apologized for his actions.
“It was not my place to question the orders of the chain of command. I breached the core principle of service by not supporting the lawful authority of the chain of command,” he said at the court martial. “I am ashamed of my public display of disloyalty.”
Court heard that Kenderesi has had no contact at all with the armed forces since 2018. He said he regretted wearing his uniform and that if he could change what happened, he would not have involved himself in the protest in any way.
“It was wrong for me to present myself as a Canadian Forces member to publicly express my private views,” he said. “I abused the trust that comes with wearing a Canadian Forces uniform. I’m sorry for the disrepute that I have brought on the Canadian Forces and myself.”
The prosecution withdrew a charge of trying to persuade another person to join in a mutiny — the first mutiny-related offence against a service member in at least 20 years. Pelletier stayed another charge of “behaved in a scandalous manner unbecoming an officer,” which also related to Kenderesi’s comments.
Kenderesi urged personnel to disobey orders to assist in a “vital service,” said the prosecutor, Lt.-Cmdr Jennifer Besner. “That was at a time when thousands of cases of coronavirus were being reported in Canada on a daily basis, and deaths resulting from the illness were spiking.”
The court was told Kenderesi, in an agreement with the prosecution, has already completed 80 hours of charitable work with a local Hungarian Catholic parish.
Having grown up under the “repressive communist era” in Hungary, Kenderesi said he remains “extremely fearful of perceived authoritarian government actions,” according to an affidavit filed with the court.
He says in the document that by December 2020, as a result of COVID-19 lockdowns, his wife had been laid off, his trucking business had collapsed and he had to declare bankruptcy. He also spoke of a perceived fear in the Hungarian expatriate community at the time that Canada was “slipping toward authoritarianism.”
“Distressed and … seeking to protect my family,” Kenderesi impulsively decided on the day of the anti-lockdown protest to attend. He said he decided to wear his uniform to “display my patriotism,” and was singled out by organizers at the protest to address the crowd.
“I am not an active advocate against vaccines and I want to resume a normal, anonymous, productive life,” he said in the affidavit.
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