Manitoba declares a state of emergency – COVID-19
The Government of Manitoba announced on March 21, 2020 that it was declaring a state of emergency in response to COVID-19. The state of emergency has been continuously extended since that point, with the most recent extension coming into force on January 4, 2021. Under section 10 of The Emergency Measures Act, the government may declare a state of emergency in respect to all or any part of the province in the event of a major emergency or disaster. A declaration is valid for a period of 30 days beginning on the day the declaration is made. The duration can be extended for further periods of up to 30 days each.
Current measures implemented by the Manitoba government
Pursuant to section 67 of The Public Health Act, the Manitoba Government has issued a number of public health orders since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The most recent public health order, which took effect on January 22, 2021, limits indoor gathering sizes at a private residence to a maximum of 2 designated persons per residence. All residents of the property must authorize those persons to attend, and residents cannot change their designated persons while this order is in effect. With respect to outdoor gatherings at a private residence, no more than 5 additional persons may attend.
For indoor and outdoor public spaces, or multi-unit residence common areas, no more than 5 persons may gather. However, there are exceptions for certain circumstances. For example, up to 10 persons, plus an officiant, may attend a funeral. Likewise, the order does not apply to organized outdoor gatherings or events where persons attend in a motor vehicle (subject to conditions).
As with previous orders, businesses must adhere to certain rules and restrictions to prevent a surge of COVID-19 cases. Businesses that are allowed to open under the current order are not restricted to the above-noted 5 person limit, but must limit the number of members of the public at their business to 25% of the usual capacity of the premises or 250 persons, whichever is lower. Businesses must also implement measures to ensure that members of the public are able to maintain a distance of at least two metres from one another while attending the premises.
Please see the order for a complete list of businesses and services allowed to open under the current orders and the conditions applicable to those businesses and services. A business that is not listed in a schedule must remain closed while the current orders are in effect. Nothing in the order prevents a business that is not on the list from operating remotely, which includes providing goods by delivery or making goods available for pick-up, or providing services online, by telephone or other remote means. Temporary access to a closed place of business is authorized for certain limited purposes, such as dealing with critical matters relating to the closure of the business or allowing for repairs or security services to be provided.
The province announced that as of January 29,2021, anyone entering Manitoba, regardless of whether it was from another country or another province must self-isolate for 14 days (this includes those entering from northern and Western Canada, and from west of Terrace Bay in Ontario).
Powers under The Emergency Measures Act
Pursuant to subsection 12(1) of The Emergency Measures Act, the government has the following emergency powers and can order any of the following things during a state of emergency:
- Cause emergency plans to be implemented;
- Use property considered necessary to prevent, combat or alleviate the effects of any emergency or disaster;
- Authorize or require any qualified person to render aid;
- Control, permit or prohibit travel to or from any area or on any road, street or highway;
- Evacuate persons and remove livestock and personal property, and make arrangements for their adequate care and protection;
- Control or prevent the movement of people and the removal of livestock from any designated area that may have a contaminating disease;
- Authorize the entry into any building, or upon any land without a warrant;
- Cause the demolition or removal of any structure in order to prevent, combat or alleviate the effects of an emergency or a disaster;
- Authorize the procurement and distribution of essential resources and the provision of essential services;
- Regulate the distribution and availability of essential goods, services and resources;
- Provide for the restoration of essential facilities, the distribution of essential supplies and the maintenance and co-ordination of emergency medical, social and other essential services;
- Expend such sums as are necessary to pay expenses caused by the emergency or disaster.
On April 15th, 2020, the Province passed a Bill (Bill 54) to amend The Emergency Measures Act and give the province the power to make “”any order” it considers necessary and essential “to prevent, reduce, or mitigate serious harm or substantial damage to persons or property or the effects of fiscal or economic disruption.” The Act now also prohibits price-gouging during emergencies by allowing the province to set fixed prices for necessary goods, services and resources. Orders made by the province under The Emergency Measures Act can be found here.
Pursuant to section 90 of The Public Health Act, persons found guilty of an offence can face a fine of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to six months. For corporations, the fines increase by up to $500,000 per offence. If a person fails to comply with an emergency health hazard order or a public health emergency order under the Act, they can face a fine of up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment for a term of up to a year. For corporations, the fines increase to $1,000,000.00.
The province has also amended the Preset Fines and Offence Descriptions Regulation to allow enforcement officers to issue tickets with set fines for failure to comply with the emergency orders under The Public Health Act. Fine amounts are set at $1,296 for tickets issued to individuals, including sole proprietorships and partnerships, and $5,000 for tickets issued to corporations. A fine of $298 applies for failure to wear a mask in a public place.
The April 15th, 2020 amendments to The Emergency Measures Act also increased penalties under that Act. For individuals, the penalties are increased to a maximum of $100,000 or one year imprisonment, or both. For corporations, the penalties are increased to a maximum of $1,000,000. The penalty for a breach of an evacuation order is increased to $500,000 (from $50,000).
Other emergency legislation in Canada
The Federal Emergencies Act authorizes the federal government to take special temporary measures to ensure safety and security during national emergencies. This legislation is meant to be used a last resort, and a national emergency should only be declared when the emergency is of such proportions that provincial and territorial jurisdictions cannot effectively deal with it. As of this writing, the federal government has not declared a federal emergency over COVID-19.
Each province and territory has its own legislation and procedures to manage emergencies within their respective boundaries.
As the Manitoba Government response to COVID-19 is continuously evolving, we encourage individuals and businesses to stay informed.
Please do not hesitate to contact your relationship partner or lawyer if you have any questions or if we can be of assistance in guiding you through these new challenges.
This article was prepared by:
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This article represents general information and is not legal advice. Please contact us if you would like legal advice that is tailored to your particular circumstances. We would be happy to help.