Toronto surgeon, medical group call complaints to regulatory body about gun law advocacy ‘abuse’ of system

Click to play video: 'Debate over stricter gun laws in Canada between doctors, gun rights coalition'
Debate over stricter gun laws in Canada between doctors, gun rights coalition
WATCH ABOVE: It's a heated debate that has last over a month. The Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights has taken objection to a new organization of doctors fighting for tighter gun laws. As Erica Vella reports, the coalition has launched dozens of complaints against the founding member of Doctors For Protection from Guns – Mar 13, 2019

An organization of doctors fighting for stricter gun legislation in Canada says Ontario’s medical regulator will not be pursuing numerous complaints launched against one of its founding members.

Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns (CDPG) says the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) has decided it will not investigate the over 70 complaints against Dr. Najma Ahmed that related to her advocacy work for tighter gun laws.

As a trauma surgeon, Ahmed has seen first hand the damage a bullet can do.

She was working at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital the night of the Danforth shooting, which claimed the life of 18-year-old Reese Fallon and 10-year-old Julianna Kozis.

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“What was particularly tragic that night was the innocent age and the loss of life of such young, beautiful children,” Ahmed told Global News. “And really, the idea that there could be a mass shooting incident in the city in such an open and public place.”

The doctor called the night “other worldly” and after a record number of 96 homicides in the city in 2018, it prompted Ahmed to say “enough is enough.”

Ahmed founded the CDPG just over a month ago. The group is calling for a ban on handguns and assault weapons, as well as the passage of Bill C-71 currently making its way through Senate. The bill calls for stricter and more detailed background checks for persons looking to obtain a firearm, among other things.

“These are completely preventable injuries,” Dr. Philip Berger, one of the co-founders of the CDPG told Global News. “Longstanding public health analysis has shown that when governments bring in reasonable public health policies — in this case, to control the access to guns — that violence is reduced and the traumatic effect of guns is reduced.

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“That is what the doctors are calling for.”

Though Ahmed said the reception to the new organization has been mostly positive, there have been critics, including the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights (CCFR) who was the group that urged its followers to launch the complaints against the doctor.

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The group argues that doctors are not experts on firearms and they should not be concerning themselves with political issues.

READ MORE: ‘It’s always preventable’: U.S. doctors, NRA spar over gun violence with #ThisIsMyLane

CEO and Executive director of the CCFR Rod Giltaca said the issue is about illegal firearms in the country and that legal owners should not be punished. He said he had reached out publicly numerous times to discuss the matter with Ahmed and the CDPG, but did not hear back.

“They [doctors] don’t understand policing policy or legislation, they don’t understand enforcement or the culture around firearms,” Giltaca told Global News.

“Our members started to complain to the regulator [the college] because that’s really the only thing they can do.”

However, the CPSO oversees the practice of medicine in Ontario and said in a statement, the “legislated complaints process is generally intended to focus on clinical care or professional behaviour. The CPSO’s role is not to resolve political disagreements when clinical care/outcomes or professional conduct is not in question.”

The CPSO could not confirm details of its decision due to the appeal process. Those who filed complaints have 30 days to appeal the college’s decision.

Ahmed called the complaints a waste of time and energy, saying they clogged a system and possibly prevented the college from reviewing serious complaints “that are related to serious failures to provide excellent clinical care.”

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READ MORE: St. Michael’s Hospital’s trauma team shows why seconds count for Toronto’s victims of violence

Berger said the complaints were “a complete abuse of the purpose of the regulatory body.”

“The disingenuity and dishonesty of the coalition is breathtaking,” he said, describing the complaints as an “organized campaign of mass harassment.”

Giltaca and the coalition have taken from the National Rifle Association in the U.S. and their “stay in your lane” sentiment which argues against doctors who say gun control is a public health issue.

But Ahmed believes strongly that the issue of stricter gun laws is indeed a public health issue.

“This is an issue that strikes at the heart and the matter of health and well-being of our citizens,” she said. “From our perspective, this is not a political matter.

“It is our objective and responsibility to inform the public discourse and inform our policy makers what we see and what we understand about how this can be prevented.”

Ahmed said she knows the situation is a complicated one and that there is an “element of illegal trade and illegal firearms that come to bear on the matter.”

“But we also know that a proportion of firearms that were initially legally purchased make their way into the wrong hands and even legal firearm owners sometimes commit crimes.”

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The CDPG is holding a Call for Action day on April 3.

“We have organized about a dozen towns and cities across the country at about midday,” Ahmed said. “Physicians and healthcare providers will congregate in town squares, outside hospitals, near medical schools to raise awareness and to engage the public and engage the policy makers about what we know and what we see.”

“We are interested in sharing our experiences … in the process of making better legislation.”

With files from Erica Vella

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