Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister woke up to a spooky sight on Halloween morning: 65 tombstones erected on the boulevard across from his Wellington Crescent home.
Each tombstone marked a Manitoban who lost their life from COVID-19. On Saturday, two additional deaths were announced, bringing the total to 67.
The eerie cardboard gravesite markers bore comments such as, "The government won’t protect you from COVID-19." Or, "Never forget Pallister neglect."
Others ascribed the unnamed individual’s cause of death to "cuts to health care by Manitoba Government." Still another ascribed cause of death to "ready start grow" a play on the name of the provincial economic response to COVID-19, #RestartMB, which has the tagline "Ready. Safe. Grow."
"We’re all concerned, frightened, and frustrated about this growing wave," said Emily Gerbrandt, a Winnipeg student and one of the protest’s organizers. "Throughout this pandemic, Pallister’s government has remained committed to an austerity agenda and now we’re all paying the price. Short-term economic concerns are resulting in death."
Gerbrandt and other organizers say they are concerned by the lack of accountability they’re seeing from Pallister and other members of the cabinet.
"Their continued absence shields them being held accountable for their lack of substantive action to prevent these avoidable deaths," their press release said.
Dominique Gagnon, another of the protest’s organizers and a teacher in Winnipeg, said strain on educational workers is only continuing to get worse.
"At the same time as doctors are calling for province-wide shutdowns, Pallister’s government is not committing to the support this would require for public sectors and citizens, he’s not commenting on these numbers at all," Gagnon said.
In a statement issued Saturday, Pallister said, "I respect the right of any Manitoban to peacefully protest and encourage all who choose to do so, to do so safely to protect their health and safety and that of others as well."
Sarah Lawrynuik reports on climate change for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press climate change reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.