I want to thank all NCN Citizens and residents who went shopping in Thompson over the past two weeks and followed the rules. I also am very disappointed in those who broke the rules. As I have said before, my Council and I, our Executive Management Team, Health Care and EMO professionals are not making up rules to make your lives difficult. We are taking these steps to keep a very deadly virus out of our community.

As of today, Manitoba has 280 cases of the virus. Public Health experts around the world are warning that we are only in the early stages of this pandemic which has already infected millions of people and caused hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Various announcements have been made this week that the choices we make this summer will determine how severe the pandemic will be in our communities this fall and next winter. We are being warned that the second wave of this pandemic will be worse than what we have experienced so far and that we are still up to two years away from having a vaccine to protect us from this killer virus.

This all means that the way we all lived our lives just a few months ago is no longer the way we can do things going forward. We will have to keep restrictions in place. We will have to constantly monitor and adjust our measures based on the best information available at any given time.

We recently allowed five days of shopping in Thompson. We had a number of challenges that led to fewer people being able to shop than anticipated so we are going to allow two more shopping days on Tuesday May 5th and Thursday May 7th for those people who were unable to go over the past two weeks.

Unfortunately, a significant number of people violated the rules particularly in relation to drugs and alcohol. All of those people have been or will be issued $500.00 tickets. Any Employees working for NCN or an NCN Entity will be subject to discipline. People trafficking drugs or bootlegging will be banished from the community and in accordance with our Community Protection Law will not be allowed to apply for re-entry for at least 5 years.

People who are not banished will be provided with a chance to obtain assistance through our Circle of Care and Alternate Benefits programs and policies. We are implementing new programs through the Medicine Lodge and the Wellness Centre to support our Citizens struggling with addictions and trauma. We will be reviewing all of the information from these first trips into Thompson and continuing to monitor whether there are new COVID-19 cases in the northern region to assess whether future trips will be possible.

I want to stress that our team really appreciates the majority of our Citizens who are trying to follow the measures we have put in place for the health and safety of all of us. We do not want to see you penalized by the selfish actions of others so will assess how we can balance all these different factors. But everyone needs to understand that until there is a vaccine there will no longer be freedom of movement as we must keep this virus from entering our community.

The good news is that measures we have all put in place appear to be working. We want this to continue so we need everyone to continue following these stringent measures to limit our potential exposure to this silent killer. For all of us, this means Staying Home and Staying Healthy.

We are hoping spring will be here soon. We can all take steps to become healthier – improving our physical fitness will help our mental and emotional health as we all struggle to learn how to cope in this new reality. We can walk everyday while maintaining physical distancing. The experts have told us that we are less likely to get the virus outside while physical distancing.