Attempts to thwart access to or destabilize the operations of Alberta hospitals could be met with fines of $10,000 to $25,000 once a promised new regulation under the provincial Critical Infrastructure Defence Act is enacted. The Alberta government has announced that hospitals and other health facilities will be added to the designated list of public and privately owned venues identified for rigorous controls against trespassing.
The move responds to a series of unruly gatherings that dissenters opposed to COVID-19 vaccination have staged at health care campuses throughout the province. The enabling legislation, which came into force in June 2020, includes flexibility for the government to add other types of critical infrastructure, as deemed necessary, to the list specified in the Act.
“It is dangerous for anyone or group to hamper the ability of Albertans to access health care when they need it,” says Health Minister Kaycee Madu. “Our government is making more explicit through the Critical Infrastructure Defence Act that the safe operation of our hospitals is, indeed, critical, especially during this unprecedented time.”
Once the new regulation is in place, it will be an offence to wilfully obstruct, interrupt or interfere with the use, operation, construction or maintenance of a health care facility. Those convicted of doing so will be subject to fines of up to $10,000 for a first offence and fines of up to $25,000 or up to six months in prison for subsequent offences. Corporations found to be giving support or direction to trespassers face fines of up to $200,000.
Existing categories of property identified as critical Alberta infrastructure include: pipelines and related infrastructure; oil and gas production and refinery sites; electricity, gas and water utilities; telecommunications lines, towers and equipment; highways; railways and mines.