Harassment complaints escalate during pandemic: Knowing your rights in Alberta after criminal charges


Amid a raging pandemic, there has been a drastic increase in the number of reported cases of violence and harassment, particularly targeted toward healthcare workers.

Many frontline workers have indicated that, during the course of their work, they’ve had to fear for their own well-being in addition to protecting themselves against the virus. The amount of hostility being faced by public health inspectors has become extremely worrisome, with many receiving death threats, constant harassment, and online bullying.

“We’ve had public and private information posted on social media and we’ve received threats,” said Meaghen Allen, a member of the Canadian Institute of Public Health Inspectors (CIPHI) branch in Alberta, during an interview with CTV News Edmonton.

Allen manages a team of 17 inspectors in the region for Alberta Health Services (AHS) and notes that, while they’ve only had a handful of interactions with these victims, the story is similar with members across the province.

In response to this continued attack on public health inspectors, CIPHI has removed the names of its members from its official website to protect their identities. In addition, victims of harassment should file a criminal complaint against their attackers.

Criminal harassment in Canada involves unlawfully disturbing a victim in a manner that leaves them reasonably terrified for their safety or for that of someone close to them. Usually, repeated communication with the victim, stalking them, or following them around in a manner that instils fear can be solid grounds for a criminal harassment charge. Even sending unsolicited social media or text messages repeatedly can result in criminal harassment charges.

Nonetheless, if you’re being charged with a criminal harassment felony in Canada, it is important to seek an experienced criminal defence law firm like AlbertaLegal.ca to handle your case. A criminal harassment sentence can result in up to 10-years imprisonment, depending on the severity of the charge. In some cases, you may be let off with a lesser jail term and a fine to the tune of $5,000.

Last year June, Kevin Johnston, a candidate for the Mayor of Calgary, was charged with criminal harassment after a police investigation revealed he had threatened the safety of an Alberta Health Services employee in a series of social media posts that lasted for months. He had previously been faced with numerous harassment charges, with a court ordering him to pay nearly $3 million in damages to a certain victim in Ontario.

Due to the sometimes violent and repeated nature of criminal harassment, it is often difficult to get away with such actions without earning a criminal record. But, with a good criminal defence lawyer, there are some ways in which you can get your criminal harassment charges dropped.

One common resolution is to enter a peace bond with the victim. By signing this document, you’ll be required to maintain a safe distance from the victim and avoid making any contact with them for one year. Additionally, there may be some other specific conditions you’ll need to meet and adhere to, such as abstaining from any form of violent conduct, reporting to probation whenever you’re required, and maintaining good behaviour. Signing a peace bond can easily get your criminal charges dropped, thereby avoiding any criminal record.

Enrolling in and completing a diversion program is another way to drop your criminal harassment charges. The most suitable program for criminal harassment charges is the Mental Health Diversion program. As a participant in this program, you’ll be required to complete some activities such as attending counselling classes or community service within the space of a few months.

Once you’ve completed the program, you’ll stand a higher chance of getting your criminal charges dropped. Still, avoiding a criminal record via a diversion program is still quite difficult to achieve. For this reason, it's worth your while to seek out the advice and expertise of a competent criminal defence lawyer to help you discover creative ways to limit the repurcussions.

If neither a peace bond nor a diversion program is deemed sufficient to resolve your criminal harassment charge by the Crown Prosecutor, there’s still one final means to avoid having a criminal record. By applying for and receiving a conditional discharge, you will have to meet a set of stringent conditions created by the court over a certain period. As long as you comply with these conditions, you’re bound to wipe out your criminal record altogether.

Harassment or any other atypical behaviour is never okay and should be highly discouraged. However, if you find yourself on the receiving end of a criminal harassment charge or laying claim for one, it is necessary to seek reliable legal support.