Quebec considering special law to prevent anti-vax protesters from blocking access to hospitals, schools

Quebec premier François Legault said Tuesday it’s “unacceptable” that people have been protesting against the vaccine passport outside hospitals and schools recently, adding the province could turn to the law to put an end to these demonstrations.

While thousands of people have filled the streets of downtown Montreal and other Quebec cities to protest the public health measure, only a fraction of those crowds showed up at hospitals and schools in the last few weeks.

About a dozen protesters showed up at the Glen hospital on Decarie Blvd. on Sept. 13, a far cry from the thousands that marched through the island’s core at the beginning of the month.

Still, with protesters also showing up at schools and allegedly harassing students, the premier said he is considering an extra measure to keep health-care workers and youth safe.

It would be a law to create a safe zone around such building, similar to the one introduced by Quebec in 2016 to prevent demonstrations within 50 metres of abortion clinics. 

“We’re not ruling out anything,” Legault said Tuesday at a press scrum at the National Assembly.

“Indeed, that could be a special law that we’re looking at, if we have the right, if we can do it.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, too, had promised during the election campaign that he would introduce legislation that would make it illegal for protesters to block access to hospitals after several protests took place across the country.

But experts have come out saying those laws already exist in the Criminal Code and that police, in some cases, just aren’t enforcing them.

“It’s unacceptable to have anti-vaccine protesters in front of our schools, in front of our hospitals,” Legault said Tuesday. “I can’t tolerate that.”

Following his remarks, education minister Jean-François Roberge, who has previously said he was “outraged” by protesters showing up at the Louis-Riel high school, tweeted on Tuesday “Let's leave the students out of these protests!”

Already this school year, there have been five anti-vaccine demonstrations near schools in Montreal, according to Liberal education critic Marwah Rizqy, who said she has seen children being shouted at and filmed by protesters. 

On Tuesday at the National Assembly, she suggested a short-term solution would be to seek an injunction whenever a protest is announced on social media. 

"We can't just tweet our outrage anymore, we have to take action," she said from her seat in the Blue Room. "We have to protect the children before it gets out of hand."

More protests are being planned in Montreal and elsewhere, with Facebook events describing them as demonstrations against “dictatorial governments” and their “Nazi passport.”

Nous sommes en action pour garantir un environnement sécuritaire aux enfants et aux parents. Laissons les élèves en dehors de ces manifestations!
 https://t.co/2cIBduH5pZ

— Jean-F. Roberge (@jfrobergeQc) September 21, 2021

--With files from The Canadian Press

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