WINNIPEG -- Manitoba's Families Minister says the practice of birth alerts will continue in the province for now, adding that with the spread of the COVID-19 virus, it is not the time to make big changes.

The province had previously announced that it would end the controversial practice that allows hospitals to flag new mothers to child welfare agencies on April 1.

READ MORE:Manitoba government to end controversial practice of birth alerts in April

But that deadline has been pushed back as the number of COVID-19 cases rise in the province.

"Manitoba is focused on the COVID-19 response to help reduce the spread of the virus and protect the health of all Manitobans," Health Minister Heather Stefanson said. "While we are committed to ending birth alerts, now is not the time to implement a broad system change that would put additional pressure on our health care system at a difficult time."

Stefanson said the province will proceed with its plan to end birth alerts, "as soon as it's safe and feasible to do so."

From April to December last year, the province said 281 birth alerts were issued, which was down 38 per cent from the same time the year prior. Manitoba Families estimates in past years about 500 birth alerts were issued per year.


Grand Chief Arlen Dumas of the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs called on the province to honour its commitment to end the controversial practice sooner rather than later.

"We realize that COVID-19 is a critical reality for all Manitobans; however, our First Nations mothers and newborns babies have endured decades of unfair treatment and human rights violations," Dumas said in a written statement.

"Their lives should not be discounted in light of COVID-19."

Dumas said the changes needed in the Child and Family Services system should not have a large impact on the health care system.

"We call on the Manitoba government to urgently provide supports to expectant mothers who are to give birth during this pandemic," Dumas said. "No mother or child should experience the tragedy of a newborn apprehension."

-with files from CTV's Devon McKendrick