Canada’s Trudeau pledges to crack down on hospital protests

Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau slams recent ‘anti-vaxxer gatherings’ outside Canadian health facilities.

Health workers look at an anti-vaccine mandate protest outside Toronto General Hospital in Toronto, Ontario on September 13 [Chris Helgren/Reuters]

Justin Trudeau has promised that if re-elected his party would crack down on protests outside healthcare facilities, as demonstrations denouncing coronavirus-related public health measures have taken place outside hospitals in recent weeks.

Trudeau, whose Liberal Party is currently in a tight federal election race with the Conservatives, said on Monday that the Liberals would make it an offence to obstruct access to any building providing health services, such as hospitals, testing centres, pharmacies and abortion clinics.

The party would also make it an offence to intimidate or threaten any healthcare worker doing their job and any patient receiving care.

“I am deeply disturbed by anti-vaxxer gatherings outside of hospitals and health care sites in the last few weeks,” Trudeau said in a statement.

“These people are intimidating our health care heroes and putting Canadians seeking health services at risk. I will not accept this. That’s why we’re going to take strong action to ensure everyone has access to the care they need and keep our front-line health care workers safe.”

A series of rallies are expected to take place outside health facilities across Canada on Monday to denounce efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including vaccine mandates, CBC News reported.

CBC said the demonstrations were organised by a group called Canadian Frontline Nurses, which was “founded by two Ontario nurses who have promoted conspiracy theories about COVID-19 and attended rallies in the US for those who think the pandemic is a ‘fraud'”.

A group of protesters rallied outside Toronto General Hospital, one of the city’s busiest, on Monday afternoon, Canadian media reported.

The protests come amid rising anger at Trudeau for his government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and support for COVID-19 public health restrictions, such as vaccine passports and obligatory inoculations for government employees.

Irate right-wing protesters have targeted Trudeau along the campaign trail, often shouting epithets and holding signs denouncing his coronavirus policies.

The rallies outside hospitals and other health facilities have been denounced by politicians across the political spectrum in Canada, as well as by health experts.

A protester carries signs during an anti-vaccine mandate protest outside Toronto General Hospital [Chris Helgren/Reuters]

On Sunday, the associations representing Ontario nurses and doctors condemned the scheduled protests, saying they are “making it difficult for patients and health-care workers to get in and out of hospitals where they work or receive care”.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) and the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) also called for “safe zones” around hospitals and other health facilities.

“We respect democracy and the rights of people to protest but these must not be held anywhere where they block entry and exit to health-care facilities, especially access for emergency vehicles or patients seeking emergency care,” the groups said in a statement.

The Liberals currently hold a slim lead over the Conservative Party – 31.9 percent to 31.3 percent – ahead of the vote on September 20, according to CBC’s Poll Tracker, and they could retain a minority government.

Trudeau triggered the snap election two years ahead of schedule in hopes of securing a parliamentary majority, but the Conservatives have made gains during the past few weeks of the campaign.

Source: Al Jazeera