Support pours in for Sask. chief medical officer after protest outside his home

Regina police have confirmed a small protest took place outside the home of Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab on Saturday. 

In a news release, police said they arrived at the residence shortly after 2:30 p.m. CST.

“Police monitored the situation and conducted an investigation until the protesters departed at approximately 3:30 p.m. Police will review the information gathered to determine if further action is required,” the release reads, in part. 

Premier Scott Moe condemned the group’s actions calling the protest “unacceptable, sickening and wrong.”

Moe said the Regina Police Service and the RCMP are both involved to make sure Shahab and his family are safe. He said the government is looking into long-term security options to protect Shahab and his relatives.

Alec Couros, a professor of educational technology and media at the University of Regina, said the protest took things to a personal level against Shahab and called it “incredibly disturbing.”

How did it come to this

Couros said at this point, it’s bigger than Dr. Shahab, but everything starts small. 

“This has been coming for a long time. This is related to QAnon, this is related to anti-masker protests that have happened. This is also related to the leadership or the lack thereof of our provincial system, our government, to provide clear and direct and concise information for the last ten months,” he said. 

“If you fail to provide that direct and clear and concise information, you’re somewhat responsible for what happens and what grows and is nurtured in that vacuum.”

There was much confusion in the beginning of the pandemic — and responsibility for that doesn’t lie solely with the provincial government in Saskatchewan. Couros said inconsistent messages and what he called weak leadership at the World Health Organization contributed too. 

But once international advice became clearer, Saskatchewan didn’t necessarily follow suit. Confusing messaging and inconsistent modelling of good pandemic behaviour can sow doubt in people who already distrust the government and media. The situation can become dire, Couros said. 

Protestors are ‘idiots’: Moe

In his response to the protest, Premier Scott Moe used the word “idiots” to describe the people there. Couros said that shame or ridicule doesn’t often work if you want people to engage in a dialogue with you and change their mind. 

“You can think of the parallel of, for those people who are trying to get loved ones out of a cult for instance, they try to leave some sort of connection, leave a door open,” he said. 

“When you outright ridicule people, there’s even less of a chance for these people to reconcile and to come closer to the truth.”

Other reaction

There was a real outpouring of support for Shahab after the protest on Twitter. Several people condemned the protest and some used the hashtag #IStandWithShahab.

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