Ontario doctors disciplined over Israel-Gaza protests
Just days after spending a night in jail and being charged with mischief, emergency room physician Dr. Tarek Loubani climbed on top of a riser at Parliament Hill and called for a "Free Palestine," while demanding the government of Canada push for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
"I will not go back to sewing children's heads without anesthesia," said Loubani, 41, who has volunteered in Gaza over the past decade. "We must make our voices heard here and tomorrow … Ceasefire is not enough. We must have a free Palestine."
The London, Ont., doctor spoke in front of thousands of protesters on Saturday, aware that his activism in a politically charged climate puts his job at risk.
He has emerged as a prominent voice, advocating for human rights for Palestinians since Israel declared war on Hamas.
According to the Israeli government, about 1,200 people were killed in the Oct. 7 attacks. In the seven weeks since then, at least 14,800 Palestinians — mostly women and children — in Gaza have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Ministry of Health.
"These things shouldn't happen. That's why you see a lot of fighting back against the weaponization of antisemitism to include any criticism of Israel," Loubani said in an interview with CTV News ahead of his speech on Parliament Hill.
On Nov. 16, London police arrested Loubani and charged him with mischief for allegedly vandalizing the office of a member of Parliament. Last month, the front door and porch of London MP Peter Fragiskatos's constituency office was defaced by squirts of ketchup.
While he has continued to speak out since his arrest, Loubani's criminal charge has triggered an investigation by the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Loubani said he knows at least five Gazan physicians who have been killed by airstrikes, and dozens of other health workers who have been injured.
"We come from a place of privilege – but people there are losing their family members. The catastrophe continues and cannot be stopped unless there is a ceasefire and a just solution to this conflict," Loubani said.
CONDUCT OF 5 ONTARIO DOCTORS UNDER REVIEW
Loubani is one of at least five medical doctors in Ontario being investigated for potential professional misconduct after sharing their views on Israel and the Palestinian territories publicly or through social-media posts. Four of the doctors under scrutiny expressed solidarity with Palestinians, while one is pro-Israel.
James Turk, director of the Centre for Free Expression at Toronto Metropolitan University, said he has reviewed some of the social media posts that led to the investigations.
He said he is concerned universities and hospitals are capitulating to pressure from lobby groups.
"As far as I know, none of them engaged in illegal speech in Canada. It was simply that people who disagreed with their views were able to put pressure on their employers to take actions against them. There's no place for that in a democratic society," Turk said.
At the time of publishing this story, none of the five doctors under scrutiny for their political views on Israel-Gaza faced concerns about their medical expertise.
According to records from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, there were no complaints from patients about their medical care.
"There's no suggestion they're treating Jewish patients or Arab patients or Muslim patients any differently than anyone else. So in that sense, it's not a question of their professional behaviour," Turk said.
"The real allegation is that patients who disagree with them politically may feel uncomfortable going to them. We can't silence people because others may be troubled."
CTV News reached out to the doctors and none agreed to be interviewed, other than Loubani.
DR. BEN THOMSON
Nephrologist Dr. Ben Thomson was initially suspended on Oct. 13 for a month from Mackenzie Richmond Hill Hospital after he questioned information posted by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs on X, formerly Twitter.
Thomson's suspension was confirmed to CTV News by hospital staff who did not want to be identified because of the ongoing legal matter.
Thomson wrote on X, formerly Twitter, on Oct. 10: "No babies were beheaded, there have been no confirmed reports of rapes. You repeat this nonsense out of racism."
When Thomson made the post, unverified reports of decapitated babies were widely posted on social media. The claims involving mutilated infants still remain in dispute, according to fact-checking by the Poynter Institute, a non-profit journalism school and research organisation.
Following his post, Thomson was doxed, threatened and accused of antisemitism on social media.
CTV News has also heard a recording of a voicemail that referred to Thomson as a "disgusting human being" and threatened him and hospital staff with violence unless his social media post was removed.
Thomson is the co-founder of Keys of Health, a charity that places doctors from developing nations into specialized training programs in Canada. Most recently, Thomson has helped several physicians from Gaza and the West Bank secure fellowships.
DR. CHRISTIAN ZAAROUR
On Nov. 17, Honest Reporting Canada, a pro-Israel advocacy group, flagged a post it claimed was from Dr. Christian Zaarour's personal Instagram account.
Zaarour is an anesthesiologist with The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
The post quoted Musa al-Sadr, a dead Iranian-Lebanese cleric, and stated, "We consider Israel to be absolute evil. There is nothing worse than Israel. If Israel and the devil fight each other, we will stand with the devil."
On its X account, Honest Reporting Canada asked: "Would any #Jewish person feel comfortable getting treatment or being taught by him?"
Without naming Zaarour, SickKids said in a statement that "any forms of racism are completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated," and would be investigated under its code of conduct.
The hospital said one of its physicians was on voluntary paid administrative leave while an investigation was being completed.
DR. YIPENG GE
Dr. Yipeng Ge, a fourth-year public health and preventative medicine resident with the University of Ottawa faculty of medicine, was suspended following pro-Palestinian posts he made on social media, after another physician, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, called them antisemitic on his blog.
Freedhoff posted screenshots allegedly of Ge's Instagram account showing posts supporting a "Free Palestine."
The screenshots show a repost of a quote from Harvard law student Tala Alfoqaha, which stated: "If the phrase 'from the river to the sea' makes you feel uncomfortable then you probably believe that Palestinian freedom is an inherent threat to Jewish safety. The issue isn't how we articulate our demands for freedom, it's that your comfort is predicated on our lack of freedom."
Freedhoff claimed on his Substack page that Ge's post "equates Zionism with the genocide of Palestinians."
More than 92,000 people have signed a petition on Change.org calling on the University of Ottawa to reinstate Ge and issue an apology for denying him his "fundamental right to free expression."
According to Ge's LinkedIn profile, he sits on the board of the Canadian Medical Association and was a member of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's anti-racism advisory committee.
DR. EVA LONN
Although most of the doctors in this story who have been sanctioned support Palestinians, there is at least one case of a pro-Israel doctor under investigation.
In late October, Dr. Eva Lonn, the medical director of cardiac health and rehabilitation at McMaster University, commented on an article about a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Brooklyn, N.Y.
The Hamilton doctor wrote in a LinkedIn post "deport them all to where they came from."
A Charge.org petition called on the university to act and McMaster said it is reviewing the matter.
Without naming Lonn, McMaster said in a statement the post does not align with the university's "values in advancing inclusive excellence or responsibilities as health-care educators and professionals."
McMaster says it does not discuss employment matters and did not answer questions about whether Lonn's hospital or teaching privileges have been suspended while the investigation is underway.
At this time of heightened concerns over antisemitism and Islamophobia, employment lawyer with Samfiru Tumarkin, Aaron Levitin, says all workers should review their workplace policies around social media.
"Employees should be mindful of what they are posting because it could have a significant impact in terms of their employment," Levitin said. "And employers need to monitor to make sure they are keeping their workplace safe for all staff and clients."
In response to questions about whether the above doctors were acting responsibly on social media, one Jewish human rights organization, B'nai Brith Canada, said physicians should not publicly voice their political concerns.
"It's not about picking sides," says Richard Robertson, B'nai Brith's manager of research.
"Doctors have a responsibility to remain apolitical to ensure they can retain the confidence of all their patients."
Now back in London, Loubani continues to work in the emergency room. He says he's committed to using his medical training and skills to treat all patients.
"In reality, we all have biases and those biases do not interfere with our ability to care for our patients. This is a simple oath I took. I did not go into medicine to discriminate against patients. I care deeply about people. I care deeply about my patients."
But outside the hospital, Loubani says he will also continue to protest against the war and speak for Palestinians, even if his advocacy continues to result in complaints.
"The victims from Ukraine or Palestine or wherever always tells us – we don't want you to be silent."