The federal Latest Democrats and Liberals made mirror pledges on Monday to criminalize protesters that block hospitals or harass health-care employees as party leaders denounced planned demonstrations at hospitals nationwide.
A gaggle calling itself Canadian Frontline Nurses called for what it dubbed “silent vigils” in response to public health restrictions geared toward slowing the spread of COVID-19, which they call “tyrannical measures and government overreach.”
Dozens of demonstrators gathered outside Toronto General Hospital, many to sentence Ontario’s proof-of-vaccination system that’s scheduled to take effect next week.
Police were also there as a part of what local officials said can be an effort to take care of access for doctors, nurses and patients, if essential.
Speaking in Sioux Lookout, Ont., NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said a federal government can’t ban protests, nor can it limit where people can exhibit like provinces similar to Ontario have done with bubbles around abortion clinics and farms.
But Singh pointed to the Criminal Code as a method to dissuade such demonstrations from happening. His party’s platform pledges to make it a federal offence to harass or obstruct someone from accessing medical care, and supply harsher penalties for anyone assaulting a health-care employee.
He said protesting at hospitals was different than demonstrating elsewhere, similar to rail lines, noting that blockading a hospital could mean someone dies.
“It will not be the space, it will not be the place to protest,” Singh said in front of his campaign plane within the northern Ontario town.
“In the event you’re in any way threatening health-care employees, impeding their ability to go to work, you’re impeding patients’ access to care. If cancer patients aren’t having the ability to get into the hospital, that’s just not on.”
The problem of vaccinations and methods to reply to the pandemic has been a mainstay of the federal campaign, which wraps up in a single week on Sept. 20.
Anti-vaccine and anti-mask protesters have dogged Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau along the campaign trail, even pelting him with gravel at one stop, after he promised to forge ahead with mandatory vaccination rules for travellers.
Hours after Singh spoke, Trudeau outlined a similar pledge of criminal sanctions for anyone blocking access to hospitals, vaccine clinics, testing centres, pharmacies and abortion clinics, and people intimidating or harassing health-care employees.
Speaking in Vancouver, Trudeau said the Criminal Code already has provisions about intimidating individuals who work within the justice system, but there may be now a must protect doctors and nurses in an analogous way.
“It’s not OK any day to know that a nurse going right into a late shift crossing a car parking zone is perhaps afraid that there might be someone there to spit on her or shout obscenities at her,” Trudeau said in his opening remarks.
The Liberal leader also took aim at Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole as Trudeau repeatedly looked to make use of the problem of vaccines and public health measures as a wedge.
Speaking in the agricultural Ottawa suburb of Carp, O’Toole said the planned protests “completely unacceptable,” calling for unity at the same time as he denounced Trudeau with sharpened personal attacks.
“There may be the power to peacefully protest and things like this, but to harass and to try to block people from accessing health care in a pandemic is totally unacceptable,” O’Toole said.
“Now could be the time for us to work together, using all of the tools we’ve got — including vaccines, rapid tests, distancing, masks — in our fight against COVID-19. We want to come back together as a rustic on this crisis, not divide ourselves.”
Asked what he would do if elected, O’Toole said he trusted local officials to administer the situation.
Meanwhile, Green Party Leader Annamie Paul made a rare campaign stop outside of Toronto on Monday as she visited with party candidates in Prince Edward Island, a spot where the Greens have made political inroads because the official opposition within the provincial legislature.
Paul pointed to that success and the dozen-plus pieces of laws the provincial party has pushed as something voters in other parts of the country should consider after they solid a ballot.
Monday marked the ultimate of 4 days of advance polls, and Elections Canada said Sunday that 1.3 million people got here out on Friday, greater than what was recorded on the primary day of advance polls within the 2019 vote.