Province, RCMP deny doctor’s allegations of racism, ‘political scapegoating’

The New Brunswick government and the RCMP are denying allegations of discrimination, “political scapegoating” and withholding evidence levelled by a former Campbellton doctor. Dr. Jean-Robert Ngola, 52, filed the lawsuit against the RCMP, the provincial government, as well as Facebook, in January 2022.In it, he says he faced racism and threats after he was accused in 2020 of breaking COVID-19 rules by failing to isolate and of being the source of a deadly outbreak. After many months of motions and court appearances, the province and RCMP filed their statements of defence earlier this year.In its filing, the federal attorney general, speaking on behalf of the RCMP, explicitly denied that the RCMP was biased against Ngola, that it withheld evidence, that it was serving the political interests of the province or that it breached Ngola’s Charter rights.The province denied all allegations of breaching Ngola’s Charter rights or “scapegoating” him to get ahead in the election held that fall. Premier did not know Ngola’s name, filing saysIn May, Ngola was labelled by some as “patient zero” after he tested positive for COVID-19. In early May 2020 he drove across the border to Quebec and did not isolate upon his return. He later claimed the province’s rules were unclear.During a May 27 news conference on the province’s response to the pandemic, Premier Blaine Higgs said a medical professional had travelled to Quebec for personal reasons.Higgs never referred to Ngola by name but blamed what was then a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Campbellton region and a resurgence of the coronavirus in the province on the “irresponsible individual” who returned to work at the Campbellton Regional Hospital for two weeks.The outbreak claimed two lives, infected dozens and forced that part of New Brunswick back into a more restrictive  phase of recovery.In 2022, New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs told reporters a court hearing may be the only way to put ‘an appropriate end’ to the discussion about the case of Dr. Jean-Robert Ngola, who left the city of Campbellton and now practises in Quebec. (Ed Hunter/CBC)Ngola’s lawyers argue that Higgs, acting as an agent of the province, “knew or ought to have known” that the public could identify Ngola based on those details and Ngola’s identity which “had already been illegally leaked to the public via Facebook/social media prior to the press conference.”Ngola’s lawyers also allege that the province’s actions “were calculated for political advancement” by the premier.”By pinning the increase in COVID-19 cases on Dr. Ngola, the Defendants RCMP and [the province] shifted the blame for their management of COVID-19 to him,” the suit says.In the statement of defence, the province says Higgs did not know Ngola’s name, gender, age, race or occupation when he spoke at that news conference.The province denied all of Ngola’s allegations of scapegoating and discrimination.It also says any breach of confidentiality was done by an “unknown third party” who posted Ngola’s name on Facebook. And it says Ngola disclosed his own health information on June 2, 2020, in a media interview.RCMP says it did not contribute to racismAfter conducting an investigation into Ngola’s movements that spring, the RCMP recommended a charge be laid against him under the Emergency Measures Act. The Crown first went ahead with the charge, but withdrew it in 2021.In his suit, Ngola’s lawyers say he “was facing severe racism and serious threats to his life,” and the RCMP’s actions “bolstered” racist conduct against him” and “re-attended at his home several times in response to public complaints that he was failing to quarantine.”In the statement of defence, the Attorney General of Canada says any “harassment or racist treatment” experienced by Ngola was “unacceptable and deeply offensive,” but the office denied allegations that RCMP contributed racial profiling, hate crimes or harassment. The RCMP admit that Ngola called with concerns for his safety, the filing says.”The RCMP took reasonable steps to respond to the Plaintiff’s concerns, which included doing extra patrols around his house and encouraging him to contact them should he believe his safety or that of his daughter, were at risk.”Both the province and attorney general ask that the case be entirely dismissed with costs. Ngola now practises in Quebec.No date has been set to hear this case.

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