The Nova Scotia government is creating a buffer around health-care facilities and the homes of patients who receive at-home health services to prohibit protests and other disruptive activities.
The Progressive Conservatives tabled the bill Thursday at Province House. It follows recent anti-vaccine protests outside the Halifax Infirmary and the home of Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang.
"This is all designed to make sure our health-care professionals know that their government supports them in having a safe and healthy workplace," Premier Tim Houston told reporters.
Houston said people have a right to protest, but there is a place and time and it shouldn't get in the way of people's ability to access health care or for providers to get to work.
"Protesting at the legislature, that's OK," he said. "Protesting at a health-care facility — not OK, it shouldn't happen."
No protesting within 50 metres of site
The legislation will create a 50-metre bubble zone around hospitals, sites that provide mental health care, home-care services, long-term care sites, clinics, doctors' offices and pharmacies. Peaceful protests outside that bubble would be permitted.
Violating the act comes with stiff fines: $5,000 or jail time for a first offence and up to $10,000 or jail time for a second and subsequent offences. For corporations, it's even higher: up to $25,000 for a first offence and up to $100,000 for a second and subsequent offences.
"They're meant to be a deterrent," said Houston.
"People that are disrespectful to other Nova Scotians, and certainly our health-care professionals when they're at work or travelling to work, they should know that that's not OK."
Bill applies to labour actions: premier
Although Houston told reporters the bill would also apply to health-care workers engaging in labour action outside their workplace, there is nothing explicit within the legislation that appears to say that.
Opposition leaders said they're still evaluating the bill. While he supports the principle on which it's based, NDP Leader Gary Burrill said he would not support restricting people's rights to protest related to labour situations.
"I would think not only our party would have concerns about it, I think the courts would have concerns as well," he told reporters.
Liberal Leader Iain Rankin said the legislation is required, but he also wants to make sure it doesn't ban labour-related protests.
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