Sask. government looking at more ways to protect top doc after weekend protest outside home

·3 min read
Sask. government looking at more ways to protect top doc after weekend protest outside home

The Saskatchewan government is looking at the tools it has to prevent targeted protests at the homes of public servants.

On Saturday, a crowd gathered outside the house of Saskatchewan Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab, protesting against public health orders implemented by the government during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Premier Scott Moe called the act "disturbing" and "unprecedented" in the province.

"What happened this weekend is not what Saskatchewan is about," Moe said during Tuesday's provincial COVID-19 update.

"That protest is moving beyond the decision of a government, and moving to protest a person."

The premier says his government is looking at what laws other jurisdictions have for similar incidents, and whether or not Saskatchewan should consider them.

"It's a bridge too far for me, personally. I don't know what levers the government has to address that line that has been crossed, but we're looking at tools to use to do so," Moe said.

WATCH | Moe condems protest outside Saskatchewan chief medical officer's home:

In the meantime, the government has offered "as much security as necessary" to Shahab and his family to ensure they are safe and comfortable.

Shahab feels sorry for 'good neighbours,' family

Shahab said he was made aware of the protest at his home as he was working, as he normally does on a Saturday and Sunday.

"I feel grateful for the Regina Police Service and I feel sorry for my good neighbours who didn't deserve to be harassed like this, and to my family who didn't deserve to see and hear the comments," Shahab said during Tuesday's press conference.

He said the protests delayed him from clearing the snow at his house for about three hours. He was able to get to it once the crowd dispersed, he said, but by that time the temperature dropped from –20 C to –30 C.

Shahab says that's how it personally affected him — but philosophically, he says protests should be held in public spaces, like in front of the Saskatchewan Legislature.

"In a democracy you expect vigorous debate over every policy. Right now we're in a pandemic — it's a long year and it's creating pressures for everyone," Shahab said.

"And you express your opinions through many channels that are available in a democracy. But you also obey the law, and in my view there is precedence that you don't picket outside any residence."

WATCH | Saskatchewan's chief medical health officer responds to protesters outside his home:

Regina police continue to investigate the matter. On Monday, Regina police Chief Evan Bray told reporters that police are working alongside the Crown to determine if charges should be laid.

Protests escalate

Bray says the protesters that showed up to Shahab's home are the same group of people who have previously protested at the Saskatchewan Legislature.

From there, they have moved to protesting in front of Shahab's office on Albert Street, and in one occurrence, followed him to his car. Dr. Shahab was escorted by security during that time.

"Social media also creates its own toxic echo chambers, and it does unfortunately perpetuate hate, and does radicalize those who are susceptible to hate," Shahab said.

As protests escalate, so does the support for Shahab. On Twitter, people shared their gratitude to the doctor with messages using the hashtag #IStandWithShahab.

Shahab says he is appreciative of the support.

"The response to this protest by the vast majority of the public was more eloquent than I can be, and it gives wind to my sails, certainly," Shahab said.

"And that's what Saskatchewan is all about and Canada is all about."