OTTAWA — The federal government introduced a two-pronged bill Friday to implement 10 days of paid sick leave for federal workers, as well as new criminal sanctions for threatening health care workers.

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The new law, Bill C-3, if passed, would amend Canada’s criminal code, adding new offenses in cases where people threaten health care workers, obstruct access to medical facilities, or Threaten people accessing health services such as COVID-19 vaccinations. or abortion.

The changes are intended to make it illegal for someone to intentionally intimidate a health care worker so much that they can’t do their job, or to intimidate someone into seeking medical help, with a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

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“These are designed to protect our health care workers, doctors, nurses and the people who assist these health care professionals as well as those who need access to health care. I’ll be honest, I’m disappointed to have done that,” Justice Minister David Lametti said during a press conference.

“Even this week, COVID deniers were trying to prevent children from receiving vaccinations. Imagine trying to prevent a child from receiving a potentially life-saving vaccine,” Lametti said. “This type of behavior is abhorrent and unacceptable, especially at a time when access to health care services is already in place. far more important.”

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These new measures were sparked by the anti-COVID-19 lockdown and anti-vaccination protests seen this summer, which were vehemently condemned by political leaders of all stripes, although the provisions contained specific distances or Buffer zones are not included, officials told reporters about the rules. “Apply everywhere.”

At the time Prime Minister Justin Trudeau first made this promise during the election, questions were raised whether existing criminal penalties were already in place for protesters to block essential services, such as hospitals, or people’s access to medical services. stop from.

Addressing this, Lametti said that he is proposing changes to the Criminal Code to go beyond ordinary crimes that protect people from intimidation, intimidation, violence and obstruction.

“These amendments will give police and prosecutors additional tools to specifically protect our health care workers and users,” he said. “In addition, they will provide a maximum sentence of 10 years for intimidation. The current sentence, the common sentence, provides for a maximum sentence of five years.”

Joining ministers for the press conference, Canadian Medical Association President Dr. Katherine Smart, and Linda Silas, president of the Canadian Federation of Nurse Unions, praised the move.

“Preliminary results from our 2021 National Physician Health Survey suggested that three out of four physicians have experienced intimidation, bullying and harassment in the workplace. And one in three say it occurs regularly,” Smart said. “Existing legislative measures were clearly insufficient to prevent and respond to the threats, violence, harassment and intimidation that health workers were experiencing and which were being targeted directly at them.”

These changes will not lead to strikes or other union action, the government said, adding that “Canadians who wish to express their opinion in a peaceful manner, we will continue to do so.”

10 days paid sick leave

The law also seeks to update the Canadian Labor Code to replace personal leave for illness or injury with 10 days of paid medical leave for workers in federally-regulated private sectors who currently have sick leave coverage. Not there. Personal leave can still be taken for other reasons.

“This new measure will apply to those who work in industries such as banking, telecommunications, broadcasting, and federal Crown corporations, to name just a few… We are in all sectors to implement paid sick leave nationwide. Because the cost of inaction is too great,” Labor Minister Seamus O’Regan Jr. said on Friday. “It is time to close the gap that the pandemic has exposed in our social safety net.”

O’Regan said workers should not be faced with the choice of going to work sick, or being able to pay rent.

“We will engage in consultation with federally regulated employers and workers to better understand the impact of these changes on our workplaces and local realities. We are taking a big step forward today and we need to take this step together “

Officials told reporters during a technical briefing after the announcement that changes to the law meant an estimated 63 percent of existing union-regulated workers would see an increase in the number of sick days.

According to the government, as of 2019, approximately 582,700 employees in the federally regulated private sector had less than 10 days of paid leave to treat personal illness or injury. These amendments will not apply to federal public servants or to provincial or territorially regulated employees.

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh called the announcement of paid sick days “long overdue”.

“Justin Trudeau has given frontline workers an explanation for why he couldn’t help them when they needed it a year ago … We are calling to support. The workers are already forced to wait too long, they should not wait till 2022 for this important support. We are going to implement these sick days before the end of the year. Will continue to put pressure on the Liberal government.”

Both of these initiatives were commitments from the Liberals for the 2021 federal election campaign and are among the four key priorities the government has promised they will aim to pass in the next few weeks.