Manitoba

'Sends a horrible message,' premier says after allegations fire hall party ignored restrictions on gatherings

Allegations of a retirement party for a Winnipeg firefighter that ignored physical distancing protocols have prompted criticism from Premier Brian Pallister and an investigation by the city's HR department.

City of Winnipeg investigating retirement party at station; results could mean disciplinary action

Any firefighters who are found to have breached a restriction on large gatherings would face disciplinary measures, the City of Winnipeg says. (CBC)

Allegations that some Winnipeg firefighters broke COVID-19 protocols last weekend for a retirement party at a fire station have prompted criticism from Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister, along with an investigation by the city.

"It obviously sends a horrible message," Pallister said Tuesday. 

"There's no doubt about that. Look, there are families all over this province that are postponing weddings, christenings, postponing funerals to do the right thing — a hard thing but the right thing."

The province is currently under a public health order that bans gatherings of more than 10 people.

The alleged gathering would also break the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service's physical distancing rules, which recommend staying spaced out while at fires and in stations, a city spokesperson said Monday.

The Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service members allegedly went to Station 1 "to pay respects to a retiring firefighter on his last shift," the spokesperson said.

The City of Winnipeg says it has begun an investigation about the alleged gathering and there could be ramifications for the staff involved.

"If the investigation reveals these measures were not followed, disciplinary action may be imposed if discipline is warranted," said Jason Shaw, the city's assistant chief of emergency management.

"All available options will be considered to reinforce the importance of protecting the health and safety of our staff moving forward."

'Right now is not the time to do that kind of thing,' Premier Brian Pallister said in response to the allegations of a retirement party. (CBC )

Mayor Brian Bowman says there is an expectation that the public service, and members of respective departments, will follow the direction of their supervisors on the health protocols, but was reluctant to weigh in on the allegations at this point.

"We are respecting the fact that there is an investigation going on to determine what the facts are," he said.

"In the context of the specific allegations, we expect that the department working with human resources will conduct their investigation, and I can certainly speak to that when it's concluded."

Pallister was not so hesitant to speak about the allegations Tuesday.

"You can have that retirement party a little later and maybe safely, but right now is not the time to do that kind of thing," he told reporters.

"So let's try to all be on the same song sheet here. And if we can do that effectively then we're going to move our province forward, not backward."

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