Pallister Government Cuts to Remand Centre Puts Lives at Risk

Manitoba NDP Justice Critic Nahanni Fontaine is calling on the Pallister government to reverse its decision to permanently suspend direct lockup agreements.

“The Pallister government is using COVID-19 as a guise to make harmful cuts that would put lives at risk,” said Fontaine. “Locking up Manitoba citizens in police cells not designed for long term custody, for hours and hours on end, is a violation of Manitoba citizen’s Human and Charter Rights. Unlike the Winnipeg Remand Centre, these cells are not equipped with toilets, furniture, mattresses, food service, and have no access to health services should an emergency arise. It also means frontline police officers are pulled from their regular duties to monitor people in the holding cells.”

As a response to the COVID-19 outbreak, Justice Minister Cliff Cullen suspended direct lockups to provincial remand centres in Brandon and Winnipeg. Citizens who have been arrested are now only held in provincial jails after they've been remanded into custody by a judge or a judicial justice of the peace - a process that sometimes takes days. Yesterday, Cullen announced that this suspension will remain in place permanently.

The crowded holding rooms have led to fights involving persons in conflict with the law, unsanitary conditions, and police headquarters staff are overstretched and stressed.

“This decision will primarily affect Indigenous Peoples who continue to be disproportionately represented in the judicial system in Manitoba. As a result of the George Floyd murder by police in Minneapolis, we are seeing a monumental societal shift in justice enforcement, and the Minister needs to reverse his decision and come up with a better solution than this,” added Fontaine.