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Alberta Premier Jason Kenney

Alberta announces plans to crack down on hospital protests

Wednesday, September 29, 2021 @ 12:52 PM | By Ian Burns

Alberta is taking steps to prevent the kind of anti-vaccine protests which have plagued Canadian health-care facilities in recent weeks.

At a press conference Sept. 28, Premier Jason Kenney said hospitals and other facilities which provide health services are being added to the definition of “critical infrastructure” as defined under the province’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act. The controversial law, which was passed by the Alberta legislature last year, carries punishments for wilfully obstructing, interrupting or interfering with the construction, maintenance, use or operation of essential infrastructure like pipelines, refineries and railways.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney

Kenney said all Canadians have the right to protest peacefully but using hospitals as a venue to attack vaccines and reasonable public health measures “only adds more stress to our already overburdened front line workers.”

“These people protesting at hospitals have harassed health-care workers who are fighting the COVID-19 crisis on the front line and they have disrupted Albertans who are going there to seek treatment or support loved ones,” he said. “Our hospitals are facing unprecedented pressure because of those who have chosen not to get vaccinated against COVID-19, so we believe this is one more tool that law enforcement can use to protect access for Albertans.”

Individuals contravening the Act face a minimum fine of $1,000 and up to $25,000 for repeat offences, and/or a term of imprisonment of up to six months. Corporations can be hit with a minimum fine of $10,000 to a maximum of $200,000.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General Kaycee Madu

Minister of Justice and Attorney General Kaycee Madu said people who hold anti-vaccine views are constitutionally entitled to them but when exercising this opinion crosses the line into interfering with the ability of Albertans to access “we must take action.”

“Those who hamper anyone’s ability to access health-care facilities must be stopped,” he said. “This is not about hindering anyone’s constitutional right to protest — this is about ensuring people protesting do not impede access to health care or staff that makes these facilities work.”

The regulation is expected to come into force soon, with the exact date to be known in coming days. The effects of the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic have been particularly acute in Alberta, with the provincial government recently backtracking on its pledge to not bring in vaccine passports.

More information on Alberta’s COVID-19 response can be found here.

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