Ottawa doctor speaks out after Windsor man charged with threatening healthcare worker
An Ottawa doctor has identified himself as the target of alleged harassment and intimidation which led police to charge a man under a new law aimed at protecting healthcare workers from intimidation.
Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth, an outspoken family physician who identifies herself as a counselor with the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, said she and her staff were subjected to hate calls, emails and even in-person visits during the pandemic.
But she said it was two phone messages left following a TV interview in early September that led to the charges.
« I won’t allow people to threaten and intimidate and think they can get away with it. They can’t, » she said.
Ottawa police said Thursday they are looking for Louis Mertzelos, 58, who has been charged with hate crimes after an investigation into « multiple threats made by phone against a person working in the health care field. » .
It’s very aggressive and it’s very anti-Semitic and it’s misogynistic.– Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth
The alleged offenses include harassment by communication, harassment by repeated communication, and mischief and intimidation of a health service. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.
Police declined to share the name of the victim, but Kaplan-Myrth said it was her, adding that she had been in contact with the service throughout the process and that they informed her Thursday morning of their intention to issue a press release. She also posted information about the charges on social media.
The doctor shared transcripts of messages left on his office answering machine with CBC.
In one, the caller describes Kaplan-Myrth as « unbalanced » and twice refers to her using a racial slur aimed at Jewish people.
« It’s very aggressive and it’s very anti-Semitic and it’s misogynistic, » she said.
« He’s not someone who disagrees with public health policy, he’s someone who’s looking to scare me. »
No decision reported under new law
Kaplan-Myrth said she had previously reported harassment to police, including a death threat, but this time investigators were able to track down a suspect because he made no attempt to hide his phone number and the office had records of the messages.
What’s really scary is that it feels like we’ve normalized this kind of vitriol.– Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth
« For someone to call and not even try to block their number is just saying ‘Yeah, I don’t care. I’m here, pick me up, « like there’ll be no consequences, » she said.
The Liberal government introduced legislation in November 2021 that prohibited intimidating or obstructing healthcare workers in the delivery of care to protect patients and healthcare workers from abuse.
It only came into effect in January this year, according to criminal defense attorney Michelle Johal, who said she was unable to find any reported decision interpreting the charge.
« This is a new amendment to the penal code, so if there was a conviction…it would be, I guess, a precedent, » she said.
Doctor says vitriol has been normalized
Two people have been charged with bullying a health service following a protest outside the home of the Peterborough area medical officer. However, court staff told CBC that those charges have since been dropped.
“I anticipate protesters may challenge these provisions,” Johal said. « But the reality is that the right to peaceful protest does not extend to intimidation or any conduct intended to induce a state of fear. »
Kaplan-Myrth said she believed her case was « settled » and did not believe it would be dropped, but noted that once she filed her complaint, the situation was in her hands. of the police and the courts.
« What’s really scary is that we feel like we’ve normalized this kind of vitriol, » she said.
« We can’t cower in front of those kinds of bullies and I just won’t stand it. »