New Nova Scotia legislation protects workers from protesters

Province will prohibit protests, other disruptive activities at healthcare facilities

New Nova Scotia legislation protects workers from protesters

Nova Scotia has introduced legislation that will protect health-service providers and staff of healthcare facilities from protests that intend to interfere with locals from a hospital and other healthcare services.

“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. “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.”

The Protecting Access to Health Services Act, introduced Oct. 14, will prohibit protests and other disruptive activities at healthcare facilities and the homes of patients who receive healthcare services at home.

It will establish a 50-metre safe-access bubble zone around facilities such as hospitals, mental-health services, home-care services, long-term care services, clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacies. Only peaceful protests can occur outside that perimeter. 

The legislation will strike a balance between the rights to protest and free expression and the right of patients to access healthcare, and the need to keep health-service providers and the staff of healthcare facilities safe, according to the government.

Previously, Quebec police started looking for a man who allegedly repeatedly punched a nurse in the face. The man was angry and claimed that the nurse had vaccinated his wife against COVID-19 against her consent, according to a report.

Several healthcare workers’ unions have earlier condemned the anti-vaccine protests taking place in front of Ontario hospitals.

Penalties and feedback

Penalties for violators of the new Nova Scotia rule will be similar to the Protecting Access to Reproductive Health Care Act, which prohibits protests at abortion services clinics.

A police officer may arrest, without warrant, a person who the police officer believes on reasonable and probable grounds has committed or is committing an offence under the act. 

Individuals will be charged with a fine of not more than $5,0000 of imprisonment of not more than six months, of both, for a first office. For second offence, or subsequent offence, individuals will be charged a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than one year, or both.

In the case of a corporation, a first offence means a fine of no more than $25,000. The second or subsequent offence means a fine of not less than $5,000 and not more than $100,000.

“While we fully respect the right to protest, it is important that healthcare facilities and their properties are safe spaces for patients and families to access care. People struggling with serious health issues should be protected from the additional stress and worry protests may cause,” said Dr. Heather Johnson, President, Doctors Nova Scotia.

The legislation will come into force upon Royal Assent. It is not limited to the current state of emergency, which came into effect March 22, 2020, according to the Nova Scotia government.