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$5K fines given to Manitoba First Nations mothers who defied COVID-19 lockdown to buy groceries logo 2022-02-08 Lenard Monkman
Kattey Hart, a mother of four, said the fine is unaffordable for her as a stay-at-home mother. © Submitted by Kattey Hart Kattey Hart, a mother of four, said the fine is unaffordable for her as a stay-at-home mother.

A group of mothers from a First Nation in northern Manitoba are calling for leniency after they were fined $5,000 each for leaving their community for essentials during a community-imposed lockdown.

"When I seen that the ticket was $5,000, I thought the ticket was outrageous and crazy," said Kattey Hart, a mother of four.

Hart lives in Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation (NCN), about 670 kilometres north of Winnipeg. She was among a group of mothers who travelled to Thompson, Man., for a shopping trip Jan. 20 during a COVID-19 lockdown.

She was issued the ticket for breaking the community's stay-at-home order and is arguing that the fine is unaffordable, especially as a  stay-at-home mother.

Hart said she travelled to Thompson for food and diapers because the band's grocery stores were closed, and the paid grocery delivery system that was in place for the roughly 2,300 citizens was severely behind schedule.

"I don't think we did anything wrong," said Hart.

Yolanda Hartie, who drove her sister Caitlyn Francois to Thompson that day, is the only person out of the eight shoppers who hasn't received a ticket yet.

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She said everyone got their tickets at the community checkstop, so she has avoided going there so that she doesn't receive the ticket.

Hartie said the shoppers have been in communication with each other and would like to meet as a group with the leadership of NCN.

"I would like to see them dissolve these fines because I think it's very unjust. It's not right," said Hartie.

Marcel Moody, chief of NCN, has said that leadership was only trying to protect the community against the spread of COVID-19.

He said the $5,000 fines were a group decision made by the band's leadership and that he would like to see the fines reduced.

"We're not there to starve people, you know. Children especially," said Moody.

"Everything will be taken into consideration and we will go through a fair process."

He said leadership plans to meet to discuss the fines and that he is hoping to have the situation resolved within the next week.

On Feb. 7, NCN reported five new cases and 15 active. There have been 267 total cases since Dec. 23. 

On Feb. 4, the First Nation released a bulletin that said cases were trending downwards and that an easing of restrictions was being put into effect. 

The new rules opened up the local grocery stores and allowed travel in and out of the community, with anyone who leaves the community for more than 48 hours required to provide a negative COVID-19 test at the community checkstop.

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