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Doctor blamed for Campbellton, N.B., COVID-19 outbreak won’t face criminal charges, seeks apology

The Campbellton Regional Hospital.
The Campbellton Regional Hospital. Global News File

The doctor tagged as the source of the coronavirus outbreak in the Campbellton, N.B., area won’t be facing any criminal charges by the RCMP, according to a statement released by his lawyer on Wednesday.

Joël Etienne, the lawyer for Dr. Jean Robert Ngola, said “the defense team are now seeking answers as to why proper procedures weren’t followed, why Dr. Ngola was singled out and why privacy laws were breached.”

Read more: Doctor blamed for Campbellton COVID-19 outbreak seeks public apology from premier

Ngola is also calling for a public apology from Premier Blaine Higgs for the second time, claiming that there is evidence that shows he’s not to blame. The province linked the outbreak in Campbellton to a person who travelled out of New Brunswick and did not self-isolate upon return.

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Etienne previously told Global News a private investigator had found evidence that Ngola could not have been “patient zero” because everyone he came into contact with in Quebec, where he travelled in May, has tested negative for COVID-19.

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In Wednesday’s statement, Ngola’s defence team argued that the government of New Brunswick should have, at minimum, started an investigation “before immediately blaming Ngola.”

Read more: 2 new coronavirus cases in N.B., doctor connected to outbreak in Campbellton suspended

According to the team, the investigation should have included performing out-of-province contact tracing, and investigating and tracing “a massive breach of privacy emanating from the province that resulted in the outing and shaming of Dr. Ngola.”

“Dr. Ngola was singled out by the province, as a unique case of a health care professional who entered the province from Quebec,” said Etienne. “Our investigation proves that as many as 20 health care officials, routinely travelled in and out of Quebec into the Restigouche, as far away as the Montreal area.”

Etienne also noted that pandemics are supposed to be civilian in nature and not policing matters.

“Once again, we are calling on the premier to do the right thing and apologize to Dr. Ngola for the way he has been treated and for the extreme racism and threats of violence that he and his family have had to endure,” he said.

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People in Campbellton area pushing for regional bubble of their own
People in Campbellton area pushing for regional bubble of their own

At a news conference in late May, Higgs did not refer to Ngola by name but referred to an “irresponsible” health worker and said the matter had been referred to the RCMP.

Days later, Higgs walked back his remarks slightly and appeared to acknowledge a growing public outrage toward the doctor, telling people to leave the investigation into any wrongdoing up to law enforcement and the person’s employer.

Again Wednesday, Higgs said he wasn’t the one who made the doctor’s identity public.

“I don’t believe certainly that I did that. My comments that I made at that time, I stand behind those comments,” Higgs said.

With files from The Canadian Press