By Cole Parkinson
With the House of Commons looking at Bill C-3, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code during debates on Dec. 6, Bow River MP Martin Shields rose to give his thoughts.
After highlighting technology and agriculture within the Bow River riding, Shields turned his thoughts toward Bill C-3.
“I see my friend for Kingston and the Islands (MP Mark Gerretsen) is wondering if I am going to talk about Bill C-3, and yes I am going to. Bill C-3 is an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code regarding protests and medical leave,” stated Shields. “In 1935, the Alberta Health Insurance Act was the first Canadian health insurance act to provide public funding for medical services. It is considered an early step toward the medicare system and toward laying the groundwork for the 1969 universal health insurance program.
The history of nursing in our province dates back to 1895 where programs to train nurses began close to the Bow River riding at the Medicine Hat General Hospital and at the Calgary General Hospital. The success of these training programs led other Alberta hospitals to bring their own training programs. By 1915, there were 10 programs in existence across Alberta. These training programs prepared nurses to work in both hospital settings and private practice. Today, nursing is both a degree and diploma program offered in universities and post-secondary institutions across the country. They provide specialized training for these careers that are so vital to our health care system, which brings me to the issue regarding the legislation before us.”
Shields expanded on that thought by bringing up the fact protests have ranged from peaceful to riots over the last several years.
“Canada’s protection for the freedom of peaceful assembly is enshrined in our charter and in our legal status. In recent years, it seems as though we have seen the lines between peaceful protests and riot being blurred. However, it is important to note that peaceful protest is a right. I have experienced some of those challenges that we had in the 1960s. I remember being on Parliament Hill in 1967 in a protest against the Vietnam War. Not long after that, I was in Detroit where the riots basically destroyed much of that city, and some of it has never recovered. These riots had to do with the Vietnam War and civil rights issues in the 1960s. I saw, numerous times in the United States, where it degenerated from protest to riot,” he continued.
With the COVID-19 pandemic continuing, Shields also touched on protests that were happening at health facilities across the country. Shields expressed an opinion protesting at hospitals and similar facilities was something he was incredibly opposed of. He also voiced his support of health care workers and recognized the work they have done throughout the pandemic.
“Respect of law and having some moral high ground would presume that protests should not be occurring in front of health buildings. We saw people out banging pots at different times of the day, we saw the parades and we saw the banners, but we also saw people getting more restless during the pandemic, not knowing which way the rules were going. It was a frustrating time. However, protesting in front of hospitals may prevent those who really need to access this critical piece of Canadian infrastructure from getting the care they need, which is the critical piece for me,” continued Shields. “I trust my health care friends and neighbours. In the election campaign forums, I spoke in anger against hospital and health facility protests. We do not have laws to protect, but I want to stand to say again in this place: Do not protest at health facilities or against our health care workers.”
With Shields expressing distaste over protesting in front of health facilities, Martin Champoux, MP for Drummond, Que., asked if that expanded to other areas.
“I want to congratulate my colleague from Bow River. I had the pleasure of serving with him on the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage last year, and I have a great deal of respect for him, even though we differ on some issues. My colleague from Bow River mentioned that he trusts the health care system, health professionals and his doctor and is opposed to protests against health restrictions outside health care facilities. Do his views on prohibiting demonstrations and the obstruction of health professionals also apply to other areas of care? I am thinking, for example, of abortion clinics. Does he agree that these rules should also apply to people trying to enter abortion clinics?” asked Champoux.
“As I stated earlier, I have been involved in protests,” responded Shields. “I know how to carry a placard. It is a critical charter right. We have to be able to guarantee people have the right to lawfully protest against things they feel are not right for them, but they need to do it in a lawful way. I learned a long time ago throwing rocks at windows and breaking things unlawfully does not further the cause. We need to do it respectfully, like the debate we have in this particular forum.”
Another question was posed to Shields around the Conservative party’s work during the pandemic.
“I always appreciate the opportunity to learn more about the uniqueness of other ridings and the constituents’ needs within those ridings,” said Lisa Marie Barron, MP for Nanaimo-Ladysmith, B.C. “Unfortunately, people know the Conservatives have always made life harder for working people. Constituents in my riding of Nanaimo—Ladysmith still remember the Conservatives getting in the way of unemployed workers who need help. Can the member name one single gain his party has made for workers since the pandemic began?”
“I thank my colleague for learning more about constituents in our country,” replied Shields. “A great thing in this particular forum is that we are able to learn about where our colleagues are from and about life in their particular part of Canada, because it is a great country. When she talks about what I do, I will give her this: I was a negotiator for a union and negotiated a lot of things for employees.”