Proposed curfew would put 'already vulnerable people to further harm,' says grand chief

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is opposing a curfew that the provincial government is considering imposing in an attempt to curb rising COVID-19 cases.

Pallister 'strongly considering' curfew because 'late-night situations in Winnipeg' caused COVID-19 spike

Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Arlen Dumas is opposing a curfew the provincial government is "strongly considering" putting in place to curb COVID-19 cases. (CBC)

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs is opposing a curfew that the provincial government is considering imposing in an attempt to curb rising COVID-19 cases.

Another 374 new cases were announced in Manitoba on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Premier Brian Pallister blamed the recent spike in COVID-19 cases on "late-night situations in Winnipeg," and therefore the government is "seriously considering" instituting a curfew. On Tuesday, the province launched an online survey for the public to give feedback on the idea.

"The proposed curfew would subject our already vulnerable people to further harm through a poorly conceived and executed process," said AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas in a news release, adding that it does not consider the impact curfew would have on First Nations and people experiencing homelessness.

"If the homeless are not able to get a bed at a shelter, which are in short supply as it is, their only other option is to survive on the streets," said Dumas. "It is unjust and a sad reflection of society if marginalized people are going to be punished for being in public when that is their only option,"

The AMC notes the curfew could be effective if implemented properly, but would disproportionately impact First Nations citizens living in urban centres in a negative way.

"The risky behaviours of patrons at establishments and venues should be the focus rather than vulnerable citizens who have no place to self-isolate or go to abide with a proposed curfew," said Dumas.

The provincial government implemented limits on how late licensed restaurants and bars can serve alcohol and food before closing their doors to the public nearly a month ago.

Liquor service stops between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m., while dine-in service is prohibited between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. Takeout and delivery is still allowed past 11 p.m., though.

The Manitoba government also increased the cost of fines that will be handed out to individuals or businesses skirting public health rules, in an attempt to deter that sort of behaviour. Fines for individuals went from $486 to $1,296, while fines for businesses soared from $2,542 to $5,000.

Dumas is urging the province to keep First Nations and vulnerable people in mind when developing the curfew, should the government choose to proceed, he said.

The province plans to hold weekly telephone town halls regarding various topics surrounding COVID-19. The first is scheduled for Thursday, and will focus on enforcement of the public health orders and the possible curfew.

People can register online to take part in Thursday's telephone town hall.

The Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs represents more than 151,000 people from 62 of the 63 First Nations in Manitoba.