Saskatchewan’s premier and Chief Medical Health officer Tuesday both spoke publicly for the first time since a group of protestors picketed outside the chief doctor’s home over the weekend.
Scott Moe explained that he has worked closely over the past 10 months with Dr. Saqib Shahab and appreciated his work.
“I would say that Saskatchewan is a better place with Dr. Shahab doing what he does each and every day, Saskatchewan is a much better place with Dr. Shahab’s family doing what they do, contributing to this province each and every day,” Moe said.
The premier expressed that the protest on Saturday crossed a line.
“Whether it is a legal line or whether it is just a line of where we are as a society in this province and where Saskatchewan people are headed that we most certainly, and the vast majority agree, that line was crossed,” Moe said.
The Regina Police Service (RPS) responded to reports of a protest at Shahab's residence on Saturday at around 2:30 p.m. According to a RPS media release, police stayed on scene until protestors left at roughly 3:30 p.m. An investigation into the protest is ongoing.
Moe was not aware whether the protest against Shahab also had racial motivation.
Shahab thanked the Regina Police Service and explained that he felt sorry for his neighbours and his family who did not deserve to be harassed. Weekends are workdays for Shahab.
“On Saturday I kept doing my work and I couldn’t clear my snow for about three hours, Shahab joked, “ but went out and did my snow clearing afterwards when it was -30 instead of -20. Like the Premier said, protest outside the legislature if that is what you want to do instead of having a policy debate, so writing out your question in a coherent manner, that’s your choice,” Shahab said.
Shahab added that he expects vigorous debate over every policy in a democracy.
“Right now we are in a pandemic, it’s a long year and it is creating pressures for everyone. Even outside of a pandemic in a democracy you will debate vigorously and you express your opinion through many channels,”
Shahab said nobody should be targeted because of race, religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation.
“I think successful countries, successful societies are inclusive and do well. You can slice it as closely as you want to find differences when you want to find differences.”
He added that the public outcry after the incident also expressed his views more eloquently than he could.
“I think there is a small minority, I think, social media while it is great, the internet is great to remain connected but the social media also creates a zone of toxic echo chambers and it does unfortunately perpetuate hate and I would say radicalize those that are susceptible to it,” Shahab said.
Security has been offered to Shahab by the Government of Saskatchewan to ensure his and his family’s safety. Moe would not discuss the options for security publicly.
Throughout the press conference Moe expressed that there is a place and a time for protest of decisions by the government and that protest was not one of them.
“(Public health orders) are made most certainly on the advice of Dr. Shahab and put into action under Dr. Shahab’s signature but they are decisions that are made by the government of Saskatchewan and they are with the very capable and competent advice that is provided to us by Dr. Shahab,” Moe said.
Moe said that protests can happen in front of the Legislature and he has seen them since he became elected.
“The government does take note when there is a protest outside of public institutions. Those protests are protesting a government decisions. What we saw this weekend was a protest had moved from protesting a government decision to protesting a person, that is enough in this province, it needs to stop,” Moe said.
Moe also said anyone who doesn't like the government's COVID policy should email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call their local MLA.
-With files from Jason Kerr, Prince Albert Daily Herald.
Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald