Coronavirus: Winnipeg still focusing on education over fines for rule-breakers

Community Service Ambassadors patrolling Kildonan Park in Winnipeg on Saturday, April 11th.
Community Service Ambassadors patrolling Kildonan Park in Winnipeg on Saturday, April 11th. Marek Tkach / Global News

The City of Winnipeg remains committed to focusing on public education instead of issuing tickets to people not following social distancing rules.

On Thursday, 99 warnings were given to Winnipeggers. A total of 87 warnings were given to people at closed facilities, seven warnings were given to large groups and another five warnings were for others not social distancing.

To date, no tickets have been issued.

“The idea of not being able to walk within two metres of someone, I mean, all of this is new for Winnipeggers and by and large Winnipeggers are doing a great job,” Mayor Brian Bowman said at a press briefing on Friday.

In an effort to encourage voluntary compliance with public health orders, the city launched a Community Service Ambassador (CSA) program.

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CSAs are deployed throughout Winnipeg with a focus on parks, open spaces and other places people tend to gather.

“If there is something that needs to be said in terms of a warning, they have a couple of opportunities to discuss and have the individuals disperse and if they need, they can escalate up to the community service bylaw enforcement folks,” assistant chief of emergency management Jay Shaw said.

If necessary, bylaw officers can hand out appearance notices that could result in penalties of up to $1,000 and up to six months imprisonment for those who are not respecting the orders.

“What we see is people get it,” Shaw said. “We need to celebrate the fact that our province and our city is doing well and it’s because of these social distancing measures, and we don’t want to give out tickets — we want to give out information.”

As the weather gets warmer, Shaw said the city is assessing the situation to see if any changes to the program are necessary.

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