Hospitals and other facilities that provide health services will now receive the same protection as highways, pipelines and railways under the province’s Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, an Alberta law that punishes those who trespass or interfere with operations.
“Recent protests at hospitals have revealed the need to keep health-care workers safe and to make sure Albertans can receive critical care when they need it,” said Premier Jason Kenney in a media release Tuesday. “All Canadians have the right to peaceful protest, but 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.”
The Premier was quick to point out that protests and demonstrations are not banned, something the Act does not restrict.
“Our government is making more explicit through the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act that the safe operation of our hospitals is, indeed, critical, especially during this unprecedented time,” said Kaycee Madu, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, in the same release. “It is dangerous for anyone or group to hamper the ability of Albertans to access health care when they need it. This is another tool for law enforcement to ensure our hard-working health-care professionals can do the work we are so grateful for.”
The government says the regulation is expected to come into force soon. The specific date is expected within a few days.
Under the current act, penalties include fines ranging from $1,000 to 10,000 for a first and $25,000 for subsequent offences, as well as a potential for six months imprisonment.