Justice minister defends Manitoba's enforcement of COVID-19 measures
Manitoba’s justice minister is defending the government’s enforcement of public health orders.
“Where compliance isn’t happening, we will be there,” Cameron Friesen told reporters Monday after question period.
Responding to questions and concerns over what some see as a lack of enforcement of repeat offenders, Friesen argued the government’s measures are the most significant regime for COVID-19 of any province.
He pointed out more tickets were handed out in the most recent enforcement report – a total of 33 for various violations – compared with the week prior.
“Enforcement is significantly up compared to the week before,” Friesen said. “In tickets, in Quarantine Act violations, business tickets, failure to self-isolate.”
Under Manitoba’s current public health orders, proof of vaccination is required to dine in restaurants and to go to bars or pubs and attend some other events.
It’s also required to attend services at places of worship — people who aren’t vaccinated can only attend if capacity limits are put in place.
“The numbers that can attend are significantly reduced when you have unvaccinated people attending,” Friesen said. “Far greater numbers in attendance if you’re demonstrating that you are vaccinated.”
It’s an area critics argue the government needs to improve on to crack down on repeat offenders who flagrantly disobey and defy health orders.
“We know the government has to do a better job at ensuring folks are adhering to the public health measures,” said Nahanni Fontaine, the NDP’s justice critic.
Dougald Lamont, leader of the Manitoba Liberals, said most businesses are doing their part, pointing to the case of a Progressive Conservative MLA who left a South Osborne restaurant after failing to show proper proof of vaccination.
Lamont instead stressed the importance of being vaccinated.
“For almost anyone it is not okay to not be vaccinated,” he said.
Coleen Gibson, who lives in Transcona, said she dines in restaurants three or four times a week and masks up and prepares to provide proof of vaccination anytime she enters.
“I think they’re doing pretty well with it,” said Gibson. “They’re actually asking for people’s ID and they’re really making sure everybody does show their ID.”
More than 2,300 tickets totalling more than $3.3 million have been issued since April 2020 but data released a year later showed less than 10 per cent of the fines at that time had been collected.
Gibson said if she entered a business that wasn’t following the rules, her response would be simple.
“I would say, ‘sorry I cannot stay at your restaurant,” she said.
A spokesperson with Manitoba Justice said tips on alleged violations are regularly investigated and credible reports are followed up on.
The department said there are more than 3,000 enforcement officials throughout the province who educate businesses and ensure compliance.
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