Doctors group condemns protest at home of Saskatchewan chief medical health officer

REGINA — An association representing physicians in Saskatchewan is denouncing a protest staged outside the home of the province's chief medical health officer while an Alberta man has been charged with making threats against the Northwest Territories top doctor.

Police in Regina say officers responded to a report of a demonstration at Dr. Saqib Shahab's house on Saturday and stayed until a handful protesters left.

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The Saskatchewan Medical Association issued a statement Monday calling out those who took part.

Its president said the demonstrators' behaviour amounted to harassment and intimidation of theprovince's top doctor, who is a member of the association.

"Bringing a protest to Dr. Shahab’s private residence is absolutely unacceptable, and the SMA condemns these actions," association president Dr. Barb Konstantynowicz said in the statement.

Premier Scott Moe called those who participated idiots. He directed anyone upset with the Saskatchewan Party government's response to COVID-19 to contact his office or a provincial representative.

"Dr. Shahab will not let this incident distract him from continuing his important ongoing work and is unavailable for comment today," Moe's executive director of communications, Jim Billington, said in a statement.

"While appropriate steps are being taken to ensure the safety and security of Dr. Shahab, we are unable to provide information regarding security considerations."

In the N.W.T., RCMP said Monday that a 28-year-old Alberta man had been charged with making threatening statements toward the chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola.

Police said threats were made over the phone Jan. 20 during a call to the Kandola's office.

Police did not reveal the nature of the threats, but said they were concerning. Police say they launched an investigation after the call was received and took the man into custody Jan. 22.

Clinton Leussink is charged with intimidation and uttering threats. He is scheduled to appear in territorial court in Yellowknife Feb. 16.

Security has also been a concern for other top health officials in the country as they became the public faces of painful health restrictions.

Last fall, Quebec's director of public health revealed he had been assigned a driver and a bodyguard because he had received threats. A small group of protesters had also appeared outside his home.

Dr. Bonnie Henry, British Columbia's provincial health officer, said last fall that she had received death threats and had to have security at her house.

Earlier this month, Shahab was escorted to his vehicle by security at the Saskatchewan legislature because a small group of protesters was nearby. And last December, a man speaking at a rally against the province's public health orders made a racist remark about the doctor, which drew rebukes from Moe and other leaders.

Moe has asked police to investigate whether the protest broke any laws, including breaches of any public health orders.

The Ministry of Justice said 28 charges have been laid under the Public Health Act since the end of last year.

A spokeswoman said five of the charges have led to convictions and two of the fines have been paid.

Thirteen are pending a court date. The ministry said the others were either withdrawn or jurisdiction was lost.

"The agency responsible for prosecuting a ticket decides whether it should proceed or not. That may be a police agency or a prosecutions service. A ticket may not proceed for several reasons," spokeswoman Margherita Vittorelli said in an email.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021

— With files from Emma Tranter in Iqaluit, Nunavut.

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