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Protecting access to hospitals

Alberta’s government is making sure patients, their families and health-care workers are able to safely access hospitals and other health facilities during protests.
Anti-vax protesters at Alberta health care facilities may face fines for blocking public and employee access. Photo: Metro Creative Connection

Anti-vaccine protesters now face disciplinary action if protests block access to Alberta's health care facilities. Hospitals and facilities that provide health services will now be subject to the same protection that railways, highways and pipelines receive under the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act.

In a news release, the government said the law carries punishments for trespassing, interfering with operations and construction, and causing damage. It includes the flexibility to expand the definition of “essential infrastructure” through regulation, which is expected to be in place this week.

"Recent protests at hospitals have revealed the need to keep health-care workers safe," said Premier Jason Kenney. "Blocking ambulances and preventing people from getting treatment is definitely not peaceful. Law enforcement is now fully empowered to make sure hospitals and health facilities are safe.”

Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu said protests and demonstrations are not banned, as the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act does not restrict lawful protests or the exercise of constitutionally protected rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly.

“It is dangerous for anyone or group to hamper the ability of Albertans to access health care when they need it," said Madu. "This is another tool for law enforcement to ensure our hard-working health-care professionals can do the work we are so grateful for."

Fines for the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act range from $1,000 and up for individuals to up to $200,000 for corporations. Enforcement for infractions at health care facilities will be added in coming days.