Campbellton doctor accused in COVID-19 outbreak faces provincial charge, lawyer calls it ‘scapegoating’

The doctor accused of setting off the coronavirus outbreak in Campbellton, N.B., in May has been charged with a provincial offence under the provincial Emergency Measures Act.

Dr. Jean Robert Ngola has received an appearance notice to attend Campbellton provincial court on Oct. 26, according to his lawyer Joël Etienne.

The charge is under Section 24 (b) and is for instances in which an accused “violates or fails to comply with a direction, order or requirement made under this Act or the regulations.”

In a Saturday statement, lawyer Etienne said this is not a criminal charge, but “the same provincial set of laws that are used when police give people speeding tickets.”

The outbreak allegedly began at the Campbellton Regional Hospital, where Vitalité Health confirmed that the doctor at the centre of the new outbreak worked at the hospital and failed to self-isolate after a trip to Quebec.

2:08 Doctor’s lawyer says he is not to blame for Campbellton outbreak

Doctor’s lawyer says he is not to blame for Campbellton outbreak

Since then, Ngola has experienced “mercilessness, cruelty and was cast away by a Premier, by an employer, by a Government,” said Etienne in the statement.

At a news conference in late May, Premier Blaine Higgs did not refer to Ngola by name but referred to an “irresponsible” health worker and said the matter had been referred to the RCMP.

Days later, Higgs walked back his remarks slightly and appeared to acknowledge a growing public outrage toward the doctor, telling people to leave the investigation into any wrongdoing up to law enforcement and the person’s employer.

Read more: All active COVID-19 cases in N.B. remain linked to doctor that failed to self-isolate

Etienne said in last week’s statement that New Brunswick authorities “are misleading the public and media about the nature of the outcome of the police investigation relating to Dr. Ngola.”

Etienne told Global News in June that a private investigator has found evidence that Ngola could not have been “patient zero” because everyone he came into contact with in Quebec has tested negative for COVID-19.

“Which means, by definition, that if he got sick, he got sick in New Brunswick, not Quebec,” Etienne said back then.

Now, Etienne is calling the situation “the scapegoating” of a racialized medical worker in New Brunswick.

“Is this being done as a political tactic ahead of the Provincial election in order to try to promote and favour Premier Higgs? We are openly asking this question,” said Etienne in Saturday’s statement.

Read more: Doctor blamed for Campbellton COVID-19 outbreak seeks public apology from premier

Etienne said Ngola’s defence team has commissioned an expert in systemic racism to investigate and report on whether racism and systemic racism from the provincial government, Vitalité Health and the RCMP played a role in “the abuses of power that resulted in singling out, shaming and scapegoating Dr. Ngola.”

The defence team intends to initiate legal proceedings against the province and Vitalité “for its misconduct in the Ngola matters,” the statement read.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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