Pallister slams Peguis plan to have relaxed COVID-19 restrictions over holidays

Premier Brian Pallister is condemning a plan by Peguis First Nation to allow its members to have holiday gatherings, calling on its chief not to go forward with them. 

Peguis First Nation Chief Glenn Hudson said leadership is allowing some visits during “relaxed lockdown” days over the winter holidays because thus far the community’s restrictions have worked and there are currently only three active cases. 

But Pallister said Tuesday afternoon he thinks the plan is a “massive mistake” and urged Hudson not to allow it to happen. 

“COVID does not discriminate, neither should we and we’re not going to have two sets of rules around who gets to have Christmas and how it’s celebrated this year because we’re all doing our part to protect one another. We’re all in this together,” he said during a news conference.

“And I know that Chief Hudson is a good man and a well-meaning person, but this is a massive mistake on his part.”

He pointed out that Melanie McKinnon, who leads the pandemic response team established by the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, has also urged all First Nations against any visiting outside immediate households — including over the holidays.

“They don’t have the health resources, they don’t have the human resources locally to deal with this,” Pallister said.

“Hospitals are full and ICUs are overrun and we can’t have people going out making up their own rules willy-nilly.”

He also urged federal Minister of Indigenous Services Marc Miller to condemn the plan as well. CBC News has reached out to Miller’s office for comment. 

Chief responds 

Hudson rejected Pallister’s argument that the proposal to allow some gatherings to happen was a mistake, saying the community had new cases Tuesday and single-digit active cases over the last three weeks.

He also pointed out that the First Nation began its lockdown weeks before the rest of Manitoba entered code red restrictions. 

“If the province began earlier everyone in Manitoba would be enjoying Christmas with family,” Hudson said. 

“This coupled with our restrictions in place, along with pre-registering and advance screening process before coming into our community, we are in a position to welcome our extended family members and students home.” 

Under Peguis First Nation’s plan, extended family and students, including those living off-reserve, will be allowed to visit one household from Dec. 23 to 28, and over New Year’s Eve from Dec. 31-Jan 1, a post on the community’s website states.

Off-reserve members who want to visit need to pre-register and provide contact information.

During “relaxed” lockdown days, one household member is allowed to leave to get essentials. There is a curfew from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. Any visitor not following rules could be fined and asked to leave, the community has warned.