As a B.C. doctor and a registered nurse get set to speak at a Vancouver “freedom rally” this weekend, their regulatory colleges say health professionals have a duty not to encourage people to violate public health advice on COVID-19.
Dr. Stephen Malthouse of Denman Island and Jeri-Lyn Bone, a registered nurse working in Surrey, are both scheduled speakers at a demonstration that promises: “COVID & Vaccine Truths Exposed by Real Medical Experts.” The so-called B.C. Grand Freedom Rally is co-organized by eight different groups known for their opposition to COVID-related restrictions, masks and vaccines.
Spokespeople for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. and the B.C. College of Nurses and Midwives both declined to comment directly on Malthouse and Bone’s participation, but added that doctors and nurses are expected to provide advice that is in line with public health orders and advice in terms of physical distancing, masks, vaccines and other measures.
Physicians’ college spokesperson Susan Prins said she couldn’t comment on Malthouse’s scheduled appearance because B.C. privacy laws prevent regulators from discussing matters that may lead to discipline or other regulatory action.
But she noted that the college helped develop a position statement from the Federation of Medical Regulatory Authorities of Canada, which clarifies what’s expected of doctors when they speak publicly.
“Physicians hold a unique position of trust with the public. They must not make comments or provide advice that encourage the public to act contrary to public health orders and recommendations,” the statement says.
Johanna Ward, a spokesperson for the nurses’ college, told CBC News in an email that it would be difficult to comment without knowing what Bone will say at the rally, noting that it’s not appropriate for the college to regulate all conduct that happens outside of work.
“However, if there is a link between a nurse’s off-duty conduct and the profession that demonstrates a sufficiently negative impact on the profession or the public interest, we would act,” she said.
Malthouse has been vocal in his opposition to COVID-related measures throughout the second wave of the pandemic. In October, he wrote a widely circulated open letter to Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry that falsely suggested the coronavirus is no more deadly than the flu and that people are “rarely” becoming sick from it.
He’s also argued against mask mandates and physical distancing measures, and has appeared at previous rallies in other parts of the province, referring to COVID-19 as a “so-called pandemic.” In an interview earlier this winter, Malthouse told an Alberta reporter that getting a COVID-19 vaccine is “much more dangerous than it can be beneficial.”
Malthouse did not respond to requests for comment about his appearance at this weekend’s rally.
Bone, on the other hand, does not appear to have played a public role in protests against COVID-19 measures before now.
In a phone interview with CBC News, she denied being anti-mask or anti-vaccination, but also said that two of her children have autism and that their condition was “likely” caused by a vaccine. There is no scientific evidence that autism is caused by vaccines, and research has repeatedly debunked that theory.
Posters for this weekend’s rally trumpet Bone’s status as a registered nurse, but she said she won’t be there to speak as a nurse.
“That’s got nothing to do with what I’m speaking about. I’m doing my job as a human being and a mother, to speak about whatever I want to, whenever I want, wherever I want,” she said.
Referring to CBC as a “fake news broadcaster,” Bone declined to give any details about what she will say at the rally.
“You want to hear what I have to say? Come to the event, put the camera on my face,” she said.
However, Bone also expressed deep frustration with COVID-19 prevention measures, which she suggested have profoundly affected her life.
“I’m homeschooling my children, taking time off work, trying to keep my kids protected from the whole virus scare tactic thing,” she said.
“I’m protecting my children. That’s what I’m doing. And I will do that until I die.”
Malthouse and Bone aren’t the only health professionals scheduled to speak at the rally this weekend.
Others include Ontario nurse Kristen Nagle, who was fired from a London hospital after organizing an anti-lockdown rally and travelling to Washington, D.C., to speak at a similar event. Sarah Choujounian, a registered practical nurse from Toronto who faces an investigation for her participation in the Washington rally, is also scheduled to speak.