Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau says if he is re-elected next week, he will make it a crime to block access to hospitals and other health care facilities, including abortion clinics.
The pledge comes as hospitals across the country deal with demonstrations in their parking lots and on their front lawns. The protesters oppose public health policies like vaccine requirements, which are being implemented by provincial political leaders, and are targeting the doctors are nurses who have been on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic
“It’s not right that the people tasked with keeping us safe and alive during this pandemic should be exposed to hatred, violence, fear and intimidation,” said Trudeau during a campaign stop in Vancouver.
“The Liberal Party of Canada, if re-elected to form government, will make it a criminal offense to block access to buildings that provide healthcare … whether that’s hospitals, clinics, abortion clinics, pharmacies, testing centres.”
Some health care workers, exhausted after 18 months of working on the front lines of the pandemic, called the protests “a morale blow” and “frankly disgusting.”
“It is reprehensible and frankly, our political leaders in Toronto and Ontario and Canada have not done enough to stop this,” said Dr. Raghu Venugopal, a Toronto emergency physician.
“It is a defilement of the place where people receive medical care.”
Political leaders on Monday condemned the protestors, warning that access to the hospitals must not be blocked. Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole called the protests “completely unacceptable.”
“We all owe a huge debt of thanks to our front lines,” he said during a campaign stop on Monday.
NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said the federal government can’t ban protesting, but could amend the law to make harassing a health care workers an aggravating factor at criminal sentencings.
More to come.
With files from Global’s Ahmar Khan & Aaron D’Andrea