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News Brief

Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister Considers Dramatic Expansion of Police on Winnipeg Streets To Stop COVID-19

Manitoba doctors say they need more funding and healthcare resources, not a police-enforced mandatory curfew

After facing heavy criticism over his mishandling Manitoba’s pandemic response, Premier Brian Pallister is asking the public for feedback on a new plan to police his way out of the province’s skyrocketing second wave.

According to CBC News, Pallister’s government launched an online survey asking Manitobans what they think about deploying the police to enforce a mandatory curfews. As Pallister later explained to reporters:

“It’s important, when you’re restricting people’s freedom of movement, that we make sure that we ask the public for their views on this first. The more people that have a chance to participate in the design of our programs, I feel the better possibility that they’ll work.”

Pallister wants to know what’s a good time to start a curfew: As CBC News explains, the online survey asks “questions about what time each day a curfew should start, who should be exempt (such as first responders, city crews, grocery store workers), and which areas of the province should be subject to a curfew.”

Pallister faced questions from reporters about why he didn’t hire a professional firm to conduct a scientific survey and random sampling and admitted he hasn’t worked out the details about how his plan could impact the homeless.

“Obviously, we’ll need the City of Winnipeg police, in particular, the RCMP potentially in the capital region to assist this, depending on the design of our curfew,” Pallister added.

Academics and journalists question Pallister’s plan to police the pandemic: The University of Winnipeg’s Centre for Access to Information and Justice said Pallister is proposing the wrong solutions to the problem:

“Not shutting down the COVID command centre would have helped. More dollars for health care helps. Listening to real doctors helps. Mobilizing the public sector helps. Policing the pandemic does not help, it just exacerbates inequality and extends police power.”

Meanwhile, Winnipeg Free Press columnist Sabrina Carnevale asks: “Legit question: how does a curfew and issuing tickets stop the current spread in personal care homes and hospitals?”

Doctors say curfew is “not needed”: Doctors Manitoba, an organization representing Manitoba’s physicians, resident physicians an medical students, tweeted:

“Take the (Manitoba Government) survey about a COVID curfew. A curfew is NOT needed for Manitobans to do the right thing, just like you always do when neighbours are in need. Donating blood, passing sandbags, Manitobans step up in emergencies. Right now you can help by staying home.”

Community groups say “don’t bring police into public health”: Local groups that advocate against police brutality and systemic racism have raised concerns about Pallister’s plan to police the pandemic, especially given Winnipeg’s vulnerable homeless population and history police violence against Indigenous people.

Human Rights Watch has criticized police for violating human rights under similar COVID curfews in Australia. Earlier this year, Winnipeg’s Police Board admitted local police had committed human rights violations during the pandemic.

Pallister facing wide criticism over his mishandling of the pandemic: This week, over 200 doctors wrote an open letter calling on Pallister to increase healthcare funding and develop better public health communications to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Pallister has received significant criticism for his rush to be the first province in Canada to re-open its economy and lack of preparation for a second wave.

Manitoba has the most per capita COVID-19 infections in Canada.

[CBC News]

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