The View From Here – Courting controversy over decency proves an unhealthy choice for Health and Wellness Expo

Tom Henihan

It is best to beware of anyone selling health and wellness: good health is a personal matter and though it may require some discipline, it is a matter of simple, obvious choices limited only by one’s financial wellbeing.

A large, health oriented road show that has been in the news lately is Health and Wellness Expo, which was founded in Winnipeg about twenty-four years ago to bring under one roof an extensive rogues gallery of industry gurus to promote health and wellness products and services.

The Expo also aimed at offering the consumer a place “where they would have the opportunity to visit this venue as a safe haven for collecting information, products and services that offer choices for the enhancement or improvement of their well-being.”

Apparently, consumers need a safe haven when shopping for health products.

Health and Wellness Expo has now come in for much deserved criticism for scheduling David Stephan as a speaker at its March 9 to 11 Expo event in Calgary.

In April 2016, Lethbridge couple David and Collet Stephan were found guilty of failing to provide the necessaries of life for their 19 month old son Ezekiel, who died in 2012.

Ezekiel Stephan contracted meningitis and suffered from a lung infection. His parents believed his illness to be croup or flu and administered natural remedies to the child. A family friend, who is a nurse, alerted the Stephans to the likelihood that the child had meningitis and advised they take him to see a doctor. However, the Stephans ignored their friend’s advice and continued with the natural remedies, subjecting their child to a regimen of garlic, onion and horseradish.

When Ezekiel’s health finally became grave, his parents called the doctor but due to prolonged neglect, the child succumbed to his illness and died.

Rick Thiessen, the owner of Health and Wellness Expo, knowing of Stephan’s conviction said that Stephan’s legal case had nothing to do with the products on which he was to speak.

To Thiessen’s skewed thinking, that David Stephan was not going to speak about garlic, onions or horseradish somehow gave him legitimacy and credibility as a speaker at a health and wellness event.

Rick Thiessen told the CBC, “I look for the most controversial thing I can. If it’s out there and it’s controversial, that means people are talking about it. There’s no better place to talk about something than at a place where you can actually find out the facts from the original person.”

Finding the facts from David Stephan is a questionable pursuit as the man has never taken responsibility or expressed remorse for the role he played in his son’s death. He has instead laid blame on the medical system and anyone else who has held him to account.

While employing that tired old ruse of pursuing controversy at the expense of decency, it is good to know that Rick Thiessen underestimated other people’s good judgement. Instead of inciting controversy, retaining David Stephan as a Health and Wellness Expo speaker created scandal and rightly so. Thiessen got what he deserved when Flaman Fitness and Sobeys withdrew their sponsorship from the Expo along with some vendors also deciding to fold their tables and withdraw.

Even though David Stephan’s appearance at Expo was ultimately canceled, the damage was done. Rick Thiessen having behaved shamelessly in his exploitation of an avoidable tragedy should continue to be censured at least until he frankly admits he was wrong, which is something David Stephan has never done.

Physical health and wellness are not the only things that sustain us in life; decorum and decency are also part of our sustaining principles and essential to our health and wellness as individuals and as a society.


Share this post