Nova Scotia is introducing legislation to protect health-care providers and patients from protests held outside health-care facilities.
The move was prompted by a string of protests outside hospitals in the country, including in Halifax in September, against COVID-19 measures.
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The Protecting Access to Health Services Act was introduced Thursday, and will prohibit protests “and other disruptive activities” at hospitals, mental-health facilities, home-care services, long-term care services, clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
The legislation establishes a 50-metre “safe-access bubble zone.”
Peaceful protests can occur outside that perimeter, the province notes.
“Nova Scotians have the right to access healthcare without fear for their health and safety. This includes patients and their families,” said Premier Tim Houston, in a release.
“While Nova Scotians have a right to protest, protests cannot be allowed to disrupt access to healthcare. People need to be able to go to work or access the help they need without facing intimidation or harassment.”
This legislation will come into force when it receives royal assent. The province notes that the legislation is not limited to the current state of emergency, which came into effect in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
A similar bill was passed in March 2020 — the Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Act — which prohibits protests at abortion services clinics.
The province notes that penalties for this new act will be similar to that one.
A first offence for an individual carries a fine up to $5,000 and/or six-months in prison. A second offence carries a fine between $1,000 and $10,000, as well as the possibility of a year in prison.
A corporation could be fined up to $25,000 for a first offence, and up to $100,000 for subsequent offences.
Quebec has adopted a law banning COVID-19-related protests outside schools and hospitals, while Alberta recently announced it was adding hospitals, clinics and other health-care facilities to a list of essential infrastructure protected under an anti-blockade law.
–with a file from The Canadian Press
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