Canada's ‘hospitals are building barricades’: COVID-19 pandemic reaches ugly heights with anti-vaxx protests

Canada's ‘hospitals are building barricades’: COVID-19 pandemic reaches ugly heights with anti-vaxx protests
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On Monday, Canadian healthcare workers and patients faced a number of anti-vaxxer protesters outside hospitals, including University Health Network's Toronto General Hospital.

While the protests took place, Justin Trudeau announced that if the Liberals are re-elected, the government would move forward with legislation to make it a criminal offence to obstruct access to any health services locations, including hospitals, and also make it a criminal offence to "intimidate or threaten any healthcare professional carrying out their professional duties."

I am deeply disturbed by anti-vaxxer gatherings outside of hospitals and health care sites in the last few weeks. These people are intimidating our health care heroes and putting Canadians seeking health services at risk.Justin Trudeau, Leader of Liberal party of Canada

"I will not accept this. That’s why we’re going to take strong action to ensure everyone has access to the care they need and keep our front-line health care workers safe. Only our Liberal team will finish this fight against COVID-19 and keep our communities safe and healthy."

Other federal party leaders also commented on the protests.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, who previous announced a plan to make it a Criminal Code offence to harass or block someone from accessing healthcare, or assault healthcare workers, condemned the protests on Monday.

"There is no space at all for protests that are threatening healthcare workers and patients. It's wrong," a statement from Singh reads. "That's not the place to protest."

"We would make it an aggravating element of a sentence if someone was in any way threatening a healthcare worker, threatening patients, getting in the way of their ability to access care. That’s 100 per cent not on."

Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole also joined the conversation, saying that "no one should be permitted to obstruct access to a hospital."

On Monday, Mayors and Chairs from the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area released a statement on the hospital protests.

"Throughout the pandemic, we have all relied on our frontline healthcare heroes to save lives and help people," the statement reads. "People go to hospitals because they need medical help - they also don't deserve to be harassed or intimidated by protests.

"The Mayors and Chairs strongly condemn protests intentionally targeting hospitals and support our enforcement officials in taking any action they deem necessary to protect our hospitals and keeping patients and healthcare workers safe."

Speaking to reporters, Toronto Mayor John Tory responded to a question about why police and city staff are able to remove encampments at parks but it's seemingly more difficult to remove anti-vaxxers in front of local hospitals. Tory called that an "unfair comparison."

"The police understand that they have the discretion and the responsibility to enforce the law and to decide where the line is between harassment and peaceful protest," the Toronto Mayor said.

Several Canadians, including healthcare workers, have taken to social media to respond to the protests.