FREDERICTON — A lawyer for the doctor who was blamed for triggering a COVID-19 outbreak in northern New Brunswick in May says his client has been cleared of any criminal wrongdoing and wants an apology from Premier Blaine Higgs.
Joel Etienne, a lawyer for Dr. Jean Robert Ngola, has issued a statement saying the RCMP ruled out criminal charges.
A spokesperson for the RCMP did not immediately respond to a request for comment late Wednesday.
"The legal team for (Dr. Ngola) is once again calling on Premier Blaine Higgs to issue a public apology for the unacceptable and unfounded public accusations the doctor has been forced to endure," Etienne wrote.
Ngola said he travelled from Campbellton, N.B., to Quebec to pick up his four-year-old daughter because the girl's mother had to attend a funeral in Africa.
He admitted that upon his return from the overnight trip he did not self-isolate for 14 days, but he says that was consistent with practices of his colleagues and superiors, and he believes he may have gotten the virus from a patient or another health professional.
Etienne says Ngola was not "patient zero" and the premier needs to apologize.
At a news conference in late May, Higgs did not refer to Ngola by name but referred to an "irresponsible" health worker and said the matter had been referred to the RCMP.
Days later, Higgs walked back his remarks slightly and appeared to acknowledge a growing public outrage toward the doctor, telling people to leave the investigation into any wrongdoing up to law enforcement and the person's employer.
Again Wednesday, Higgs said he wasn't the one who made the doctor's identity public.
"I don't believe certainly that I did that. My comments that I made at that time, I stand behind those comments," Higgs said.
The cluster of cases in the Campbellton area included about 40 people who tested positive for COVID-19, leading to two deaths.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 8, 2020.
Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press