Are Alberta’s Hospitals “Essential Infrastructure?”

The Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, commonly known as “Bill 1” was passed into law effective June 17, 2020, to protect and impose penalties for interference with industrial infrastructure like pipelines, refineries, railways, utilities and so forth.  

However, what if the Act could also be used by the Kenney government to restrain anti-vaxxer extremists from protesting inappropriately at Alberta’s hospitals?  They are blocking access, intimidating staff and patients, and making threats, including death threats against doctors.

Should Hospitals Qualify as Essential Infrastructure?

Hospitals would first have to be designated as critical infrastructure, as provided for under the Act. The Act allows for Regulations to “expand the definition of essential infrastructure in the future if necessary.”  That could be done by the Kenney Cabinet at any time they want, simply by passing an Order in Council.

What could possibly be more necessarily defined as critical infrastructure than hospitals and related services in the fourth wave of an ultra-infectious viral pandemic like Covid?

There are thousands of Albertans in critical need of timely health services. They should not be at higher health and safety risks while accessing hospitals. protesters. They would be and feel safer, more secure, less anxious, be better served, with better outcomes if there were enforced legal consequences for dangerous and abusive protesters.

What Behaviours Trigger the Penalties in the Act?

To invoke the consequences of the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act, there has to be interference with the infrastructure. Interference is “…caused by blockades, protects, or similar activities, which can cause significant public safety, social, economic and environmental consequences.” (emphasis added)

Kenney and his Cabinet could, at any time and by Regulation, designate hospitals, clinics and other health providing facilities, like EMS and vaccine providing sites as critical infrastructure.  They would then be creating it an offence to wilfully enter, wilfully destroy or damage, gain entry by false pretences, or obstruct, interrupt, or interfere with the maintenance, use or operations of essential infrastructure?

The definition of “wilfully” is helpful too.  It means with intention of causing harm, deliberately or with a stubborn and determined intention to do as one wants, regardless of the consequences.  

What could be more wilfully persistent, stubborn and with disregard of the consequences than anti-vaxxers protesting at hospitals thereby interfering with the safe, secure, and effective operation of hospitals?

What could possibly be doubtful about finding wilful interference when the ability of doctors and nurses to feel safe while doing their jobs, in and out of hospitals?  Doctors are reporting death threats.

Consider patients who need to enter hospitals or clinics for necessary procedures like chemotherapy, where their immune system is already compromised. They are facing unnecessary interference and increased health risks.  This is a threat to public safety.

Vulnerable citizens have to deal with the intimidation and threat of violence from angry unmasked, unvaccinated and potentially infected mobs.  They are hindering, if not thwarting, public access to necessary care and services?  

Interfering with citizens having peaceful, non-threatening access to health care facilities for treatments, appointments or visits to others is a serious social consequence.  

Not wearing masks, not social distancing and dishonouring limitations of crowd size under public health orders contributes to spreading Covid.  That spread threatens livelihoods and that has serious economic consequences.  

Enforcement is a Must:

Designation of hospitals as essential infrastructure is necessary but insufficient to make a difference.  There must be enforcement.

The fines under the Act are up to $10,000 for the first office, up to $25,000 for subsequent offences and possible 6 months of imprisonment.  If a corporation helps or directs interference, they can be fined up to $200,000.

A Call To Action.

Mr Kenney, you Must take steps to immediately make Hospitals and Related Services “Essential Infrastructure” under the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act.  Then you must take immediate steps to apply and enforce its provisions against anyone breaking that law.

It is the duty of the government to protect citizens. It is up to Citizens to make sure our provincial  protects healthcare facilities, the care providers who work in and with them, and the vulnerable citizens who need them open and operating effectively.  This is the minimum obligatoin for the provision of essential medical services.

 

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