Physicians and other health professionals found guilty of sexual abuse will face a lifetime ban from their profession under an amended bill passed in the Alberta legislature Thursday.
Under the bill’s first version, a health professional convicted of sexual abuse could apply to their regulatory college to get their license back after five years.
But the legislation was amended after opposition MLAs, particularly Alberta Party MLA Karen McPherson, said a five-year ban wasn’t sufficient to address the concerns of survivors.
The government voted against McPherson’s amendment for a lifetime ban at an earlier stage of debate. An amendment from the UCP asking for a 40-year ban met the same fate.
But the government had a change of heart on Thursday. Health Minister Sarah Hoffman brought forward an amendment for a lifetime ban and asked her NDP colleagues to vote in favour.
Hoffman said the original bill with a five-year ban was modelled after Ontario, the only other province to have such legislation.
Hoffman said the government had concerns about legal challenges, but after talking with survivors and legal counsel she decided to go further with the bill.
“Even if it means that we’re forging new territory, cutting new turf, that we send a very clear message — the days of impunity are over, that by far we’re going to have the strictest laws in Canada,” Hoffman said.
As for legal challenges, Hoffman said the government will have to wait and see as no other Canadian jurisdiction has taken this step.
McPherson said a five-year ban sends a weak message to survivors. She is glad the government finally came around on a lifetime ban but she is disappointed it took so much effort.
“This is what’s needed. It takes so much courage for a survivor to come forward whether it’s to the police or a tribunal or even a therapist,” she said. “So this encourages people who have been sexually assaulted to come forward.”
Health professionals found guilty of sexual misconduct will face a range of penalties. They include licence suspension, cancellation with a five-year wait to reapply or a lifetime ban.
The legislation comes after a high-profile case in Edmonton involving a physician who had his practice licence reinstated even though he was found guilty of sexually assaulting a patient and a nurse.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta said it was limited by law about what it could do. It placed conditions on Dr. Ismail Taher, including having a chaperone in the room when he is seeing a female patient.
An Act to Protect Patients gives the 29 colleges and associations that regulate health professions new power to keep members found guilty of sexual assault and sexual misconduct away from patients.
Some of the other professionals covered by the bill include dentists, nurses, physiotherapists, social workers, pharmacists and psychologists.
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Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area. It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary, generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road). Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.
Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016, Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.
Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton. The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.