RCMP have joined the province in seeking the dismissal of a lawsuit filed by a former Campbellton doctor who says he faced racism and threats after he was accused in 2020 of breaking COVID-19 rules by failing to isolate and of being the source of a deadly outbreak.
Dr. Jean-Robert Ngola, 52, filed the lawsuit against the RCMP, the provincial government, as well as Facebook, in January.
Lawyers with the Attorney General of Canada, representing the RCMP, filed a motion with the Court of Queen’s Bench in Moncton last week, requesting an order “striking out” Ngola’s amended statement of claim, filed in April, on the grounds that it “does not disclose a reasonable cause of action.”
In the alternative, they argue the pleadings should be struck out on the basis that they “fail to contain a concise statement of the material facts upon which the plaintiff relies,” and that they contain evidence and argument, contrary to the Rules of Court.
Otherwise, they seek an order that the motion be converted into a motion for judgment before the case is submitted to a jury.
They also request costs and any further relief the court deems just.
The New Brunswick Attorney General’s office filed a similar motion in the case earlier this month.
As of Thursday, Facebook, also known as Meta Platforms Inc., has not yet filed any response, according to court staff.
Ngola’s lawyers to file response ‘shortly’
Ngola’s lawyers are in the process of finalizing their responses to the RCMP as well as the provincial government, said Toronto-based lawyer Joel Etienne.
They intend to file “shortly,” he said.
“None of the materials filed in court by the defendants provide a satisfactory factual response to the pleadings advanced by Dr. Ngola,” Etienne alleged in an emailed statement.
“Dr. Ngola is steadfast in his pursuit for justice and continues to have full confidence in New Brunswick’s honourable courts,” he added.
Case relates to trip to Quebec
Ngola, a family doctor from Congo who also worked in the Campbellton hospital’s emergency department, was charged with breaching the province’s Emergency Measures Act for failing to isolate after he returned from an overnight trip to Quebec in mid-May 2020.
The charge was later dropped because the Crown said there was no reasonable probability of conviction.
Ngola drove across the border to Montreal around May 13, 2020, to pick up his four-year-old daughter, because her mother had to travel to Africa for a funeral, he said. He also made a stop in Trois-Rivières, he later confirmed, and subsequently tested positive for COVID-19.
During a news conference on May 27, 2020, Premier Blaine Higgs blamed what was then a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the Campbellton region and a resurgence of the coronavirus in the province on an “irresponsible individual” who returned to work at the hospital and treated patients for two weeks.
Higgs never referred to Ngola by name but said a medical professional in their 50s had travelled to Quebec for personal reasons, “was not forthcoming about their reasons for travel upon returning to New Brunswick and they did not self-isolate as a result.”
The next day, Higgs said the investigation into Ngola had been turned over to the RCMP, although court documents later revealed police had yet to receive an official complaint.
The RCMP dropped its criminal investigation in August 2020 but opted to charge Ngola with violating the provincial Emergency Measures Act, which carries a fine of between $240 and $10,200.
In his amended statement of claim, Ngola accuses the RCMP of:
- Misfeasance in public office.
- Negligence/negligent investigation.
- Malicious prosecution.
- Breach the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Campbellton outbreak saw a total of 41 people infected. Two of them, who were in their 80s, died, including the province’s first COVID-19 fatality.
Ngola now practises in Quebec.
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