Saskatchewan's top doctor says people don't have a right to protest at his home

REGINA — Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer says he believes there are limits to where people can protest after a handful of demonstrators unhappy with COVID-19 restrictions showed up outside his home.

Dr. Saqib Shahab says while people can go to public spaces such as legislatures to stage their frustration, he doesn't believe they have the right to protest at someone's private residence.

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"In my view, there is precedence that you cannot picket outside any residence," he said during a briefing Tuesday, where he thanked police and the public for their support.

"It gives wind to my sails, certainly, and that is what Saskatchewan is all about and what Canada is all about."

Shahab said he was working over the weekend when he became aware there were demonstrators outside his Regina home on Saturday afternoon.

Images posted to social media that appear to be from the protest show people holding signs that say "Junk scientist Shahab" and "Lockdown kills."

Shahab suggested social media had a role to play in what happened because it creates "toxic echo chambers."

"It does, unfortunately, perpetuate hate and I would say radicalize those who are susceptible to hate."

Shahab said the protest prevented him from clearing snow for a few hours and he felt bad for the trouble it caused his neighbours and family.

Premier Scott Moe said Tuesday that his government has offered security to Shahab. Moe said it's up to police in Regina to investigate and decide whether to lay charges.

A police spokeswoman said it has sent its investigation over to the Crown's office for review and would make it public if charges are laid.

The premier said the demonstration — staged by people who he has called idiots — crossed a line between protesting government decisions around COVID-19 to targeting a specific person, his family and neighbourhood.

He said his Saskatchewan Party government is looking at what options exist to address protests at the homes of public servants.

"We have been starting to look at what other jurisdictions have in place with respect to some of the laws that they have, and looking at whether or not we should consider those here," he said Tuesday.

Moe said he wasn't sure what options the government has to address what happened, since streets and sidewalks are public property.

In Edmonton on Tuesday, Alberta's chief medical health officer said she was disappointed to see people protest outside of Shahab's home.

"As a public health professional and in my role as a servant to the public I've heard for many months many different opinions from Albertans," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw.

"Some have expressed those opinions in very respectful ways even when they have disagreed, and I really appreciate that because that is the most productive form of dialogue.

"Others have been less respectful and that is not the most productive way of expressing concerns."

— With file from Dean Bennett in Edmonton

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 26, 2021

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