He may represent a constituency with some of the lowest vaccination rates in the province, but Morden-Winkler MLA Cameron Friesen is a proud booster of the region’s COVID-19 immunization campaign.
The justice minister posted a photo of himself at the Morden super site May 1 after he got a shot. Last week, he hosted an online forum on ways to counter vaccine hesitancy in southern Manitoba. He regularly posts updates on expanded vaccine eligibility.
"It can’t hurt," Friesen said Wednesday.
He can’t explain why some of his constituents refuse to get immunized.
"There’s no easy answer to that question. It’s a complex set of answers. I think a lot of people want to simplistically believe that people in southern Manitoba all think the same or believe the same and nothing could be further from the truth," said Friesen. He noted that industry and immigration have attracted workers from around the globe to the Morden-Winkler area.
"We’ve got a couple of different groups in our area that come from all kinds of places across the world, who think differently about this kind of thing. I believe our best efforts, in terms of both increasing vaccine uptake are not efforts to criticize or scorn or to condemn, but rather… to educate, to inform, to ask questions and to reach out to build, trust with these communities," the minister said.
“While none of us wanted to be in this position at this point in time, this far into a pandemic, we are and it’s very disappointing. This will be a very different kind of May long weekend." –MLA Cameron Friesen
When it comes to the flouting of public health orders, the justice minister said enforcement measures are working — even though anti-mask rallies continue to happen.
"We have been very clear with Manitobans that if they are gathering in crowds and rallies that contravene the public health rules, justice officials will be there, law enforcement will be there. It doesn’t always mean that we’re wading into a crowd, but I think you’re clearly seeing through the weekly enforcement bulletin that there are charges that are laid at the site but there’s also surveillance that goes on" and tickets are issued after the event. On May 7, the province announced the doubling of fines for repeat offenders.
"We continue to see, week over week, that the number of tickets written is up. That tells us… those efforts are significant." The justice minister said anti-mask and anti-lockdown rallies are a worldwide phenomenon.
"You have a group of people that will come out and they’re going to have their say and they want to defy the rules," Friesen said. "But I think we’ve been very successful thus far... and we’ve not seen those rallies growing exponentially," he said.
"I don’t say that to wave any kind of a checkered flag. We’re not there yet. And clearly we need to give time for vaccination to do its work," he said. "That’s going to allow us to turn the corner."
“We’re telling people, there are things you can still do. You just can’t do them in large groups and you can’t do them in your backyard and you can’t do them indoors and you can’t do them in restaurants but, you know, enjoy yourself.” –MLA Cameron Friesen
With the Victoria Day weekend approaching, he asked Manitobans to follow the orders and stay safe.
"While none of us wanted to be in this position at this point in time, this far into a pandemic, we are and it’s very disappointing. This will be a very different kind of May long weekend," he said.
"We’re telling people, there are things you can still do. You just can’t do them in large groups and you can’t do them in your backyard and you can’t do them indoors and you can’t do them in restaurants but, you know, enjoy yourself."
After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.