Manitoba First Nation plans to ease holiday restrictions, premier urges community to reconsider
WINNIPEG -- A Manitoba First Nation under strict lockdown is planning to allow some visits over the holidays. However, Premier Brian Pallister is asking the community to reconsider.
“Be very, very, very cautious about that. When people travel, they travel with COVID,” Pallister said. “I would ask (Chief Glenn Hudson) not to do that.”
Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson said visitors will only be allowed to enter under certain conditions
“People have interpreted that press release as an open invitation clause per se, but it’s not,” Hudson told CTV News Monday. “It’s very much controlled.”
The community released a notice Friday saying it will allow students and extended family to enter on its ‘Holiday Relaxed Days’ of Dec. 23 to 28, and Dec. 31 to Jan. 1.
Peguis is under federal jurisdiction and can set its own COVID-19 restrictions.
During the ‘Holiday Relaxed’ period, there will be a curfew from midnight to 6 a.m. Travelling within the community is prohibited and all visitors must pre-register and be screened for COVID-19, said Hudson.
He said many people returning for Christmas are members of the First Nation who have left to work or study.
In a statement, a provincial spokesperson said, “The entire province is under the Critical (red) level restrictions. However, bylaws enacted by a First Nation under the Indian Act directed at preventing the spread of communicable diseases in the communities take precedence. We will continue to work with First Nations leadership to control the spread of COVID-19 in First Nations communities.”
The community with an on-reserve population of around 4,800 has heavily restricted movement. There are checkpoints in and out, and members can only leave home two days a week to pick up essentials said Hudson.
As of Monday, there were three active COVID-19 cases on the First Nation.
“We had implemented this back in October, that’s why our numbers are so very low,” said Hudson.
The province has urged Manitobans not to travel over the holidays.
In a written statement to CTV News, a spokesperson for Canada's Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller said First Nations will decide what is best for them, based on their unique local circumstances.
"We respect the measures Chiefs and Councils across the country put in place to reduce the spread of COVID-19 within their own communities," the spokesperson said.
"We are deeply concerned by the rise in COVID19 cases among Indigenous Peoples in Manitoba. We will continue to work with Indigenous communities to ensure their health and safety while providing support to avoid future outbreaks."
The spokesperson said the minister's office is urging all community members to support their leadership and follow community and provincial public health measures.