NDP bill would ban COVID-19 protests outside hospitals, vaccination sites

The Manitoba NDP on Friday introduced a bill that would crack down on protests against COVID-19 measures and vaccine mandates and Prime Minister Kelvin Goertzen says it is worth investigating further.

Legal critic Nahanni Fontaine presented the private members’ bill on Friday to create buffer zones around hospitals as well as COVID-19 test and vaccination sites.

Fontaine said the need for new legislation became clear after hundreds of people protesting against vaccine mandates swarmed the Health Sciences Center, Winnipeg’s largest hospital, on Sept. 1.

“I do not think any of us would have thought that we would have seen coordinated protests across the country in front of hospitals, targeting the people who gained access to these health systems and targeting the people who are saving our lives. are exhausted who have not seen their families, “the NDP told the MLA.

If passed, the bill would create buffer zones of 50 to 150 meters outside hospitals and COVID-19 test, vaccination and treatment sites, where COVID-19-related protests, demonstrations or any kind of rejection would be blocked.

Protest exclusion zones would also be set up outside educational institutions, school grounds, childcare centers and care homes, as well as housing for health professionals and anyone else working on test and vaccination sites.

A first offense would result in a maximum penalty of either a $ 5,000 fine or six months in prison. The penalty for any subsequent offense would be a $ 10,000 fine or one year in custody.

The NDP bill would require the support of the ruling progressive conservatives to pass legislation.

The award responds to the bill, saying it is important to ensure people have access to hospitals.

“Conceptually, we want to ensure that people have access to hospitals, whether it is through this legislation, another legislation or things that already exist within the legislation,” Goertzen said.

He referred to a bill introduced by the progressive Conservative government but later withdrew, which would have prevented protests outside central infrastructure, including hospitals.

“Obviously we have some interest in ensuring that where there are things that are critical to individuals that they can access it,” he said, alluding to Bill 57, which the NDP and others criticized for criminalizing some protests on roads and railways.

Manitoba Awards Kelvin Goertzen speaks at a funding announcement at the Bethesda Regional Health Center in Steinbach. (Ian Froese / CBC)

Efforts to break protests against COVID-19 orders and restrictions have gained traction across the country.

Quebec has passed legislation banning such protests, while BC will present a bill later this fall.

In the wake of the campaign, Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, if re-elected, promised to make it a criminal offense to block access to health care buildings.

‘Aggressively harassed’

The crowd of protesters outside the Health Sciences Center on September 1 hampered foot traffic and obstructed vehicles, including ambulances running with sirens blaring to the emergency room.

At the time, Shared Health condemned participants in the rally, saying some patients were “aggressively harassed” for wearing masks, while others canceled their appointments rather than addressing the protesters.

NDP justice critic Nahanni Fontaine’s proposed legislation would stop or move some COVID-19 protests. (Justin Fraser / CBC)

Nearly two weeks later, setbacks to this protest prompted organizers to move a planned hospital protest. The protest eventually started on Manitoba legislation and moved to Winnipeg City Hall.

Earlier that day, Goertzen wrote on Twitter that the Manitobans were entitled to a peaceful protest, but “preventing access and creating anxiety in a hospital does not reflect Canadian values.”

Fontaine said the rationale for Manitoba legislation is an acceptable place to protest.

“This is where these protests should take place, not in front of hospitals, not in front of schools, not in front of day care institutions. It is unacceptable, it is irresponsible and it is selfish.”

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