Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday any re-elected Liberal cabinet would amend the Criminal Code to outlaw protests outside hospitals, clinics and pharmacies. The Code already prohibits unlawful assembly by as few as three people.
A day of national protest took place Monday as demonstrators against mandatory vaccines, and vaccine passports gathered outside hospitals across the country and denounced government mandates, reported 660 News.
The protests, planned by Canadian Frontline Nurses, held gatherings in all ten provinces, including two in Alberta. The groups stationed themselves outside of Foothills Hospital in Calgary and the Royal Alexandra in Edmonton.
Around 100 protestors could be seen gathered outside of Foothills Hospital, with several counter-protesters also taking part.
"It is not okay that across the country hospitals are having to put up barricades today to manage the mobs coming their way," said Trudeau. It’s not okay."
Protestors held up signs that compared vaccine mandates to Nazi Germany, and some were seen wearing the Star of David as they liken themselves to Holocaust victims.
Meanwhile, counter-protesters blasted electronic music to drown out the voices of protestors and held up a large banner to block protestors from the hospital’s view.
"Why would that legislation be necessary?" asked a reporter.
"It’s unfortunate that we got here, but we think those people deserve our highest level of protection," responded Trudeau.
No legal text of the proposed legislation was detailed. The Liberal Party, in a statement, said a re-elected cabinet would "make it a criminal offence to obstruct access to any building providing health services including hospitals, vaccine clinics, testing centres, pharmacies and abortion clinics," reported Blacklocks.
The Criminal Code currently prohibits unlawful assembly, defined as "three or more persons who, with intent to carry out any common purpose, assemble in such a manner or so conduct themselves as to cause persons in the neighbourhood of the assembly to fear on reasonable grounds that they will disturb the peace."
Alberta's United Conservative Premier Jason Kenney contended that though the right to peaceful protest is both constitutionally protected and a cherished Canadian value, "that right is not without limits."
"The protests must in no way obstruct the important operations of our hospitals," he said, "including the arrival and departure of emergency vehicles and workers. Blocking an ambulance is most definitely not a peaceful protest."
Kenney empowered local law enforcement to enforce the law in a timely fashion, including the potential use of the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act.
Conservative leader Erin O’Toole said on Monday that Canadians opposed to compulsory vaccination orders should not protest outside hospitals but did not comment on whether legislation was necessary. "Harassment of our front-line nurses, doctors, is completely unacceptable," said O’Toole.
New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh said he "would like to see a ban, absolutely," adding: "No health care worker, no patient, no one seeking health care should in any way be limited or have a barrier to getting the care they need. Health care workers are already burnt out. It is not the place to protest. It is wrong."
Liberal and New Democrat MPs in 2013 opposed a private Conservative bill to rewrite the criminal ban on an unlawful assembly to expressly prohibit the wearing of masks in any street protest under threat of ten years' imprisonment. Bill C-309, An Act To Amend The Criminal Code passed the Commons by a 153-126 vote but lapsed in the Senate.
"The right of Canadians to assemble and to do so peacefully is a right protected by the Charter, a document that many on the other side deep down really do detest," MP Sean Casey, then-Liberal justice critic, said in the Second Reading debate on the bill. "Rioting is already a crime."
"The Conservatives want to continue creating fear among Canadians and to perpetuate the idea that there is rampant crime on the streets, that there are riots everywhere, that the government in response must be brave," said Casey. "Conservatives operate not unlike a pack of hyenas. They see an opportunity to feast on the fears of Canadians, fears which are often of their own creation, and then they pounce."
Kenney added: "The protests must in no way obstruct the important operations of our hospitals, including the arrival and departure of emergency vehicles and workers. Blocking an ambulance is most definitely not a peaceful protest."
"And while Canadians are entitled to peaceful protest, one can still question the appalling judgment of those protesting across the country today. It is outrageous that a small minority feel it’s appropriate to protest at hospitals during the pandemic while our healthcare workers continue to battle the global menace of COVID-19 tirelessly."