Just in time for the long weekend, the province has approved the use of hundreds of new enforcers to ensure public health orders to protect Manitobans from the spread of COVID-19 are respected.

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This article was published 14/5/2020 (736 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

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Just in time for the long weekend, the province has approved the use of hundreds of new enforcers to ensure public health orders to protect Manitobans from the spread of COVID-19 are respected.

"As we continue to safely restore our services, we have to look, sadly, at additional measures to help protect Manitobans," Premier Brian Pallister said during a teleconference Thursday.

New legislation enacted this week (the Additional Enforcement Personnel Regulation) will bring the number of provincial and municipal personnel authorized to enforce COVID-related public health orders — and issue tickets for non-compliance — to roughly 3,000.

The roster includes safety and health officers under the Workplace Safety and Health Act, Liquor Gaming and Cannabis Control Act inspectors, public-health officers, park patrol officers, and Manitoba Agriculture and Resource Development public-health officers (food safety and animal health inspectors, and animal protection officers).

Those groups join police organizations (RCMP, municipal and First Nations forces) on the front lines with the authority to enforce public-health orders. However, not all groups wish to use it.

The Winnipeg Police Service has said enforcing public-health orders is a provincial government issue.

New legislation enacted this week, called the Additional Enforcement Personnel Regulation, will bring the number of provincial and municipal personnel able to enforce COVID-related public health orders to 3,000. (John Woods / Canadian Press files)

New legislation enacted this week, called the Additional Enforcement Personnel Regulation, will bring the number of provincial and municipal personnel able to enforce COVID-related public health orders to 3,000. (John Woods / Canadian Press files)

On Thursday, the police department issued a news release telling the public not to call it or 911 about the matter: "Any calls concerning possible breaches regarding COVID-19-related concerns are to continue to be directed to (city info service) 311."

Meanwhile, Winnipeg bylaw enforcement officers don't have the authority to issue COVID-19-related tickets outside of city-owned parks.

The newly designated group will have such authority throughout Manitoba as enforcement officers under the Provincial Offences Act.

"As much as we're increasing the ability to enforce, it's my hope that it won't be necessary," Pallister said in the wake of a crowd of 100 gathering at the legislature Saturday to protest social-distancing directives limiting crowd sizes to no more than 10 people. No tickets were handed out that day.

"I would hope that Manitobans will abide by the proper rules, and that they will respect themselves and each other."

Fine amounts are $486 for tickets issued to individuals, including sole proprietorships and partnerships, and $2,542 for tickets issued to corporations, a provincial government spokeswoman said.

The enforcement officials will operate in their regular roles and provide education and warnings to businesses in their sectors, issuing tickets "as a last resort," the province said in a news release.

No tickets were issues on Saturday at an anti-lockdown protest in front of the legislative building, but a newly designated group will have the authority to issue tickets throughout Manitoba as enforcement officers under the Provincial Offences Act. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press files)

No tickets were issues on Saturday at an anti-lockdown protest in front of the legislative building, but a newly designated group will have the authority to issue tickets throughout Manitoba as enforcement officers under the Provincial Offences Act. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press files)

Technically, however, they also have the authority to arrest those deemed in non-compliance.

The province is trying to enforce public-health orders under a framework it calls Operation Safe Apart. It includes the recruitment of volunteers to assist with public awareness and education; if formal enforcement is needed, it refers matters to the proper authorities.

"Should arrest be the required intervention, police agencies of jurisdiction will be notified and engaged accordingly," the provincial spokeswoman said.

Pallister repeated cautions for Manitobans to continue physical-distance restrictions and to avoid gatherings that exceed 10 people.

He said residents have done well to follow public-health orders but reminded them, if that doesn't continue, a steep social and financial cost could be on the way.

"The enforcement we've added is going to be there. And those who might choose to think they can disregard those rules may find that they're lighter in the pocketbook as a direct consequence of ignoring these rules and the health and well-being of themselves and each other," the premier said.

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman
Reporter

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.