Manitoba First Nations mothers fined $5K for defying COVID-19 orders to buy food, baby diapers

A group of Northern Manitoba mothers were fined $5,000 each for trying to access basic necessities. They are now calling for the tickets to be dropped. Alex Karpa reports.

By Alex Karpa

Eight northern Manitoba mothers were fined for violating their community’s COVID-19 stay-at-home orders while trying to access basic necessities – including milk and diapers for their children. Now they are calling for those tickets to be dropped.

Eight mothers from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation were fined $5,000 each for breaking the public-health order on Jan. 20.

The group travelled to Thompson, Man., about an hour’s drive from their community.

Kattey Hart, one of the mothers, says they went for food and diapers because the band’s grocery stores were closed, and the paid system the community uses for basic needs was no where near on time.

“Instead of us mothers being sitting ducks waiting at home, we decided to take a stand and go shopping for ourselves and our children,” said Hart.

“We did nothing wrong.”

The $5,000 fine issued to eight Manitoba mothers. (Credit: FACEBOOK/Kattey Hart)

Hart says the group was given the green light to leave the community, but when they got back, there was a check stop blocking them from going home. This is when they were issued the fines.

“I think this fine is outrageous and crazy. We’re not the bad people here,” she said.

Sonya Francois says the grocery story in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation has been closed since Dec. 17. She says it has been harder than ever to access the basic necessities to keep her family healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was glad to do what I did on January 20 because our children have needs,” she said. “My children have needs. I haven’t had income in that long and having family allowance, of course I was going to go shop for my kids. When I got home, they were happy, and I was happy that they were happy.”

Caitlin Francois says she hadn’t been able to go shopping since Dec. 15 and went against the orders because she was desperate. Francois says she is disgusted by the fine.

“I didn’t know we would be fined for taking care of our children,” she said.

“We’re not criminals. We have duties as mothers to provide for our children.”

Caitlin Francois says she and the other mothers fined are fighting for their tickets to be thrown away.

So far the fines still stand and nothing has been done about it. She says this is simply unaffordable, and unacceptable.

“My baby ran out of milk,” said Caitlin. “My toddler, he is just recovering from being anemic. He needs supplements to keep up his iron… My baby who is 10 months old needed diapers, she was down to her last few.”

“If Chief and Council were going to lock us in, they should’ve thought about the babies too.”

Caitlin says a few of the mothers have been threatened for speaking out about their story.

She provided a memo to CityNews sent from Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation Chief Marcel Moody on Jan. 20 to everyone in the community addressing the situation. It says leaders like himself have a duty to protect the health and safety of the members in the community.

“We hope the cowardly, stupid stunts pulled today will not result in more people getting sick from exposure to COVID,” Moody wrote in the letter. “Remember that with rights, come consequences.”

CityNews reached out to Chief Moody via email and phone but did not receive a response.

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