Ottawa

Protest nearly derailed boy's brain cancer treatment, mom says

Demonstrators in a week-old downtown protest against Canada's pandemic rules have delayed people's right to prompt health care, says the mother of a boy from Gatineau, Que., who requires treatment for brain cancer. 

Joline Mallet says her son has 'the right' to chemotherapy, surgical procedure

Joline Mallet holds her four-year-old son, Liam, who has brain cancer. (Radio-Canada)

Demonstrators in a week-old downtown protest against Canada's pandemic rules have delayed people's right to prompt health care, says the mother of a boy from Gatineau, Que., who requires treatment for brain cancer.

Joline Mallet's four-year-old son Liam is a patient at CHEO, the children's hospital in Ottawa.

He nearly missed a surgical procedure involving chemotherapy on Tuesday, she said. 

"They have a right to protest," Mallet told Radio-Canada, "but my son has the right to have treatment and they do not have the right to say no."

What is normally a half-hour car trip to the hospital turned into an hours-long drive because of the road closures and traffic disruptions caused by the protest, Mallet said.

Traffic was bottlenecked on the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge as access to other crossings was restricted, she said. 

Evening traffic approaching Ottawa, left, to cross the Macdonald-Cartier Bridge from Gatineau, Que., the evening of Jan. 30, 2022. Two of the five interprovincial bridges are closed to the general public heading toward Ottawa. (Reno Patry/CBC)

Once Liam and his father arrived at the hospital, they had to wait several more hours, she said, which was really hard on Liam because he had to fast ahead of the appointment and had undergone surgery on his stomach last week. 

"Hearing your child say, 'How come I can't eat? Mom, my stomach hurts,' your heart breaks," Mallet said. "You try to stay strong." 

Hospital spokesperson Paddy Moore said CHEO knew of two families whose travel for cancer therapy was recently and significantly affected by traffic conditions resulting from the protest. 

"This was added and unnecessary stress on top of what is already a stressful situation for kids and their families who are working to overcome very serious conditions and whose treatments are critical for their best outcomes," Moore said via email. 

Mallet said the protesters put her child's health at potential risk. 

"They sort of said, 'We don't care about you.'" 

Protesters have clogged up streets in Ottawa's downtown core and several interprovincial bridges between Ottawa and Gatineau, Que., since last Friday. (Guy Quenneville/CBC)

In a statement released Tuesday, organizers representing "Freedom Convoy 2022" said they planned to remain in Ottawa until COVID-19 mandates are dropped.

They also expressed regret Ottawa citizens are caught in the middle.

"We understand your frustration and genuinely wish there was another way for us to get our message across, but the responsibility for your inconvenience lies squarely on the shoulders of politicians."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

With files from Radio-Canada

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