Legislation introduced to prevent protests outside homes of health officials

By Meghan Groff

The province has introduced legislation aimed at stopping protests outside of the homes of senior health officials and other health service providers.

When the Protecting Access to Health Services Act was passed last fall, it created a 50-metre safe zone around hospitals and other health care facilities where protests are prohibited.

Amendments to the act introduced today would expand those protections to the private residences of health service providers — including senior officials and other executive decision-makers in the health sector — to protect them and their families from harassment and intimidation.

“Nova Scotians have a right to protest, but protesters cannot be allowed to harass, intimidate or stalk people in their own homes. That is unacceptable,” said Minister of Justice and Attorney General Brad Johns in a news release.

“This legislation protects the people making important public health decisions on behalf of all Nova Scotians – and their families.”

Those in violation would face fines ranging from $5,000 for individuals to $100,000 for corporations.

The amendment will come into force upon Royal Assent.

The move comes after three days of protests outside the home of the province's chief medical officer of health.

RCMP were called to Dr. Robert Strang's residence in Fall River on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. 

While Tuesday's demonstration was taking place in at that location, Halifax Regional Police arrested a man and woman on Pleasant Street “as part of an ongoing investigation into activity associated with the protests.”

Jeremy Mitchell MacKenzie, 36, of Pictou and Morgan May Guptill, 31, of Cole Harbour, have been charged with criminal harassment, mischief, harassing phone calls and intimidation of a health professional. 

The pair appeared briefly by video in Dartmouth provincial court on Wednesday afternoon, and they remain in custody until their next appearance Friday.

With files from Canadian Press

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