Canadian Medical Association urges federal government to protect healthcare workers – Philippine Canadian Inquirer

Protesters gather at Foothills Hospital to oppose public health measures related to COVID-19 in Calgary on September 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS / Jeff McIntosh

OTTAWA – The Canadian Medical Association calls on the federal government to keep its promise to support healthcare workers in the face of ongoing online harassment from doctors and other workers.

The medical association is also calling on social media companies to tackle harassment and threats made on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Online harassment against healthcare workers has not only increased, but has also intensified in recent weeks and months, said association president Dr Katharine Smart.

The trend has emerged alongside the creation of COVID-19 vaccination warrants and the upcoming rollout of vaccines for children, she added.

Smart said she would like social media companies to recognize that they play a role in improving the security of the platforms on which such harassment takes place.

“It is clear that the processes that are already in place – the terms and conditions and the reporting mechanisms – are not enough,” said Smart. “They don’t report these violent things that medical professionals are going through. They also don’t point out racism and misogyny in these comments. “

Cam Gordon, communications manager for Twitter Canada, said in a statement that “harassment and hateful behavior have no place” on their platform.

“We recognize the concerns of healthcare professionals about social media and are committed to creating healthy experiences on Twitter,” said Gordon.

YouTube spokeswoman Lauren Skelly said in a statement that the platform had “clear policies” on harassment and hate, and removed videos in violation of those policies.

Kevin Chan, global director and head of public policy for Meta Canada, formerly known as Facebook Canada, said in a statement that the platform “is constantly working” to create policies and improve their ability to enforce them, while providing to users of the tools to report abuse.

Skelly and Chan both said they look forward to meeting with the association to discuss how to keep Canadian healthcare workers safe.

LinkedIn and TikTok could not immediately be reached for comment on Thursday.

The medical association has reached out on social media and will meet with representatives next week to discuss how online spaces can be made more secure, Smart said.

“This type of behavior emboldens people, and it leads to real physical harm to people,” she said. “And we have seen medical professionals before who have been physically injured, spat on, hit, accosted, and we cannot have this type of increasing violence.”

She also said bullying contributes to already high levels of stress and burnout among healthcare professionals, and may cause workers to leave the field “at levels we’ve never seen before.”

During the federal election campaign, the Liberals pledged to introduce new criminal penalties for those who intimidate or harass healthcare workers, as well as anyone blocking access to immunization clinics, hospitals, testing centers and abortion clinics.

The promises came as protesters rallied outside hospitals to oppose proof of vaccination requirements and other public health measures.

Justice Minister David Lametti said in a statement that there was “absolutely no room for intimidation or threats” towards Canadian healthcare workers or those seeking healthcare services.

Lametti said the federal government was considering “all options” to deliver on its promises “as soon as possible.”

The association says that in addition to legislation and “responsible management” of social media platforms, public support is also needed to keep healthcare workers safe.

Smart said that means encouraging the public to hold social media companies accountable. “By joining us and calling for this action, they can show their support for healthcare workers and help us create a space that we can all benefit from,” said Smart.

“We want to be clear that this vicious cycle of online violence cannot become the legacy of this pandemic,” she added.

“We cannot allow these new standards which are detrimental to doctors, healthcare workers, scientists and others, including journalists who speak out to educate people, to become acceptable.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 18, 2021.


This story was produced with the financial assistance of Facebook and the Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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