Doctor says regulator won't probe complaints on gun control advocacy work

TORONTO — A Toronto doctor says Ontario's medical regulator has decided not to investigate dozens of complaints made about her push for stricter gun laws.

Dr. Najma Ahmed, a trauma surgeon who treated victims of a fatal mass shooting in Toronto last summer, says the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told her of its decision Tuesday.

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Ahmed is a founding member of Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns, a group calling for a national ban on private ownership of handguns and assault rifles.

The group has said it considers gun control a public health issue and stressed that physicians have a duty to speak out on policies that affect people's safety and well-being.

"Physician advocacy remains an important function that doctors fulfil on behalf of the public," Ahmed said in a statement issued late Tuesday.

Another group, the Canadian Coalition for Firearm Rights, had urged its supporters to file official complaints to the college about Ahmed's advocacy work.

The coalition argues doctors are not experts on firearms policy and should not be taking political positions.

The organization said Wednesday it understood the college's decision as saying the complaints were not deemed without foundation, but simply that it was not the appropriate forum to hear them.

"Concerning whether we believe that complaints to the CPSO was the correct course of action, the doctors have demonstrably spread misinformation and we fear that Canadians believed it without question because they are doctors," the coalition said in a statement. "We believe that lodging complaints with the licensing body was a reasonable course of action."

Those who filed complaints have 30 days to appeal the college's decision. The coalition said it would be up to individual complainants to decide whether to seek an appeal.

In a statement Wednesday, the doctors' group said it is pleased by the college's decision not to pursue the more than 70 complaints made about Ahmed.

"Dr. Ahmed wishes to sincerely thank Canadians for the hundreds of letters, emails, calls, and demonstrations of support and solidarity she has received in recent days," it said. "The CPSO decision is affirmation that advocacy for public health is an integral responsibility of physicians."

The college said it could not confirm the details of its decision given the appeal period. Its registrar, Nancy Whitmore, has previously said the complaints process is generally intended to focus on clinical care or professional behaviour rather than political issues.

A gun control law, Bill C-71, is making its way through the Senate, and Ahmed was among those who testified before the committee examining the bill.

The proposed legislation includes changes to the Firearms Act and Criminal Code, such as considering events more than five years in the past when judging applicants' eligibility for gun licences and requiring a buyer's licence be verified in the sale of non-restricted firearms.

The bill does not include an outright ban on private ownership.

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