Manitoba’s justice minister calls actions of protesters in Steinbach unacceptable

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen is publicly condemning the actions of more than 100 people who attended a protest in Steinbach against current COVID-19 restrictions. 

“It’s very unfortunate … that people would blatantly violate our public health orders, very unfortunate that people would put others at risk, especially in a community already facing very high caseloads,” Cullen said in an interview with CBC Sunday.

As Manitoba reported a record of 15 deaths related to COVID-19 Saturday, over 100 people gathered in the southeast to protest current public health measures. The protest violated a current public health order that limits gatherings to five people.

The event, which had representatives from a group called Hugs over Masks and many people from Winnipeg, started peacefully, but as it ended and provincial enforcement officers tried to ticket attendees, verbal abuse began.

After the RCMP — who were at the site to control traffic — left, people at the protest honked their horns at the same time and shouted profanity at enforcement officers.

Manitoba enforcement officers take photos of a vehicle with protesters at the end of a rally in Steinbach against COVID-19 restrictions. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

La Broquerie Reeve Lewis Weiss received a ticket for just under $1,300, then things got heated and enforcement officers left.

“It’s just not acceptable in my mind that the public would be disrespectful of those individuals trying to do their jobs and keeping Manitobans safe,” said Cullen.

The minister said he wasn’t aware of how many people were given a fine at the event and couldn’t say if more would be sent to attendees in the mail. CBC saw provincial enforcement officers taking photos and videos of licence plates.

Cullen issued a news release Sunday calling the actions of those at the rally “incredibly unfortunate, dangerous and wrong.”

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen says people breaking the province’s pandemic response measures will be ticketed. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

The minister said in the release that the message from the province and Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin has been clear, and those flouting public health rules will face consequences.

Cullen said the government will give an update to the media on Tuesday about provincial enforcement of COVID-19 restrictions.

‘An insult to our city’

Steinbach Deputy Mayor Michael Zwaagstra denounced the rally in a Facebook post saying it was done without city approval and that the organizers weren’t from the city.

“In my opinion, the behaviour of people at this rally was an insult to our city and to the many health-care workers who are working so hard to save as many lives as possible in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he wrote on Facebook.

On Sunday, Manitoba announced a record 494 new cases of COVID-19 and 10 additional fatalities.

WATCH | Protesters gather in Steinbach in defiance of public health order:

A rally against public health measures started off peacefully Saturday in Steinbach Manitoba but ended with tensions flaring. 2:11