The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) applauds the federal government’s commitment to enact legislation to protect health workers from threats, violence, harassment and intimidation. Rapid action on this urgent issue is a welcomed relief as physicians and health workers are working within an overwhelmed health system while facing threats to their personal safety.
In the past year, we have witnessed an escalation of online harassment and threats of violence targeting health workers. Our shared democratic values encourage open debate and the free exchange of ideas; however, no one should be subjected to threats and intimidation for doing their job.
Preliminary results from the CMA’s 2021 National Physician Health Survey suggest more than 75% of physicians have experienced intimidation, bullying and/or harassment in the workplace. In fact, more than one-third of physicians reported experiencing these issues at least a few times a month, with the harassment being more pronounced for women and visible minorities.
Existing legislative measures to prevent and respond to this behaviour are proving insufficient. The CMA is encouraged that protecting the safety of health care workers is a top legislative priority for the federal government and we urge them to move forward quickly on consideration of this bill. Legislative action is needed to avoid potential tragedies.
We believe social media platforms also have a vested interest in identifying workable solutions. The CMA is eager to work with both policymakers and platform managers to advance protections for those who engage online. These platforms have a meaningful role to play in spreading accurate information and promoting engagement in a way that benefits the public and does not result in harm to users.
Health workers have advocated for the health of Canadians throughout this pandemic — containing COVID-19 outbreaks, treating patients and administering life-saving vaccines. As a society, we have a collective responsibility to safeguard this important role to keep Canadians safe and informed.
Dr. Katharine Smart, CMA President