Canada

Anti-vaxxers in Quebec could be fined $10,000 for protesting near schools, hospitals

MONTREAL —
Anti-vax protesters who picket outside hospitals, schools, daycares or COVID-19 test and vaccine sites could face a heavy fine under the terms of a bill tabled Thursday by the Quebec government.

The bill, which Premier François Legault had said earlier this week was in the works, allows police to issue fines of up to $10,000 to anyone protesting within 50 metres of any of those places, depending on their behaviour.

Fines of $1,000 to $6,000 would apply to anyone protesting too close to those places over COVID-19 health rules or vaccination. That includes mobile clinics.

Fines from $2,000 to $10,000 could be slapped on anyone who intimidates or threatens people coming or leaving from those sites, or trying to access services there.

The bill also bans organizing or inciting people to hold protests like this, and it grants Superior Court judges the ability to issue an injunction to prevent them.

Quebec leaders said the measure would be temporary and is designed that way — though it has no specific end date.

If passed, the law could be in effect until the government officially ends the state of health emergency first declared in March 2020. 

LONE MNA STILL UNSURE, WANTS CLEAR EXPIRY DATE

Legault said this week that the government had lost patience with anti-vax protests of this kind, after several instances of picketing outside Montreal-area schools and at least one outside a hospital.

The aim is to pass the bill quickly, he said. To do so, it would need unanimous approval from all provincial politicians, but it’s not clear that will happen — the decision could end up hinging on a single MNA who says she’s just not sure.

On Wednesday, all of Quebec’s major parties said they supported the measure, but the legislature has a single Conservative MNA who crossed the floor this summer from the Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ).

Claire Samson voted in favour of tabling the bill on Thursday, but hasn’t said if she’ll vote to pass it.

She said Thursday that she doesn’t like that there is no clear end date on the bill and she’d prefer a clear expiration date of 30 days.

“As a legislator, it’s our responsibility to ask questions,” Samson, who represents Iberville, said Thursday.

“How long will this bill apply? They say as long as the emergency status is on. Well, we have no idea how long this is going to last. I’m not going to give them a green card forever.”

Earlier this week, Samson said she was concerned the bill could limit other kinds of protests, such as nurses’ unions who want to picket near a hospital over labour issues.

However, the bill includes wording to specify that the protests it seeks to ban only relate to COVID-19 public health rules and recommendations.

–With files from CTV’s Matt Grillo




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