Stigmatizing Hutterites about COVID-19 will harm response: public health officer

Stigmatizing Hutterites about COVID-19 will harm response: public health officer

OTTAWA — Canada’s chief public health officer says discrimination against Hutterites will not help build trust as some colonies across the Prairies experience outbreaks of COVID-19.

“The surrounding communities or the rest of the population should not stigmatize these communities,” Dr. Theresa Tam said Tuesday. “It does not help with any of the response.”

There are outbreaks in Hutterite colonies in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Some have been linked to a funeral in southern Alberta for three teens who drowned last month. It drew mourners from all three provinces.

Nearly two dozen new cases were identified on Hutterite colonies in Saskatchewan on Monday.

Premier Scott Moe described the outbreak as severe. But he pointed out that the increasing numbers show Hutterites are taking the right steps and getting tested. He also warned against stigmatizing colony members.

Hutterites are communal, Anabaptist communities. There are about 50,000 members in more than 520 colonies in Canada and the United States.

The Hutterite way of life can make colonies vulnerable to spread of the novel coronavirus since members eat, worship and do many other activities together.

Many colonies have rapidly responded to COVID-19 outbreaks to keep themselves and neighbouring communities safe by mass producing masks or restricting travel in and out.

However, there have been increasing reports of Hutterites facing discrimination when they leave the colony. Members in all three provinces have shared stories of being denied service and turned away from stores.

Paul Waldner from the CanAm Hutterite Colony in southwest Manitoba sent a letter to Premier Brian Pallister and Health Minister Cameron Friesen last week that said identifying colonies where there are COVID-19 cases has led to cultural and religious profiling. Waldner said he will file a human rights complaint if the practice continues.

Manitoba is no longer identifying colonies where members have tested positive.

Outbreaks in Hutterite communities are complex, Tam said. The federal government is providing epidemiological support and is prepared to help with increased testing and rapid response teams if needed.

Tam said one of the most important aspects of the pandemic response is having public support of health measures. She acknowledged that more work needs to be done in certain communities.

“COVID-19 does not discriminate,” she said. ”This virus can affect any one of us.

“So it’s systems and society that discriminate and not the virus itself.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 28, 2020

— By Kelly Geraldine Malone in Winnipeg

The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Rieley Kay owns both Moe’s Pizza and Cilantro and Chive which are businesses located in downtown Lacombe. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
City of Lacombe announces updated plans for downtown redevelopment

The plan would see $1.7 million spent on the downtown over the next 10 years

"We are looking seriously at the spread and determining what our next steps should be," says Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, as the daily number of COVID-19 cases continues to climb.
427 new COVID cases is highest in Alberta ever

Central zone has 126 active cases of COVID-19

The Lacombe Food Bank is still seeking donations for non-perishable items. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
Fraserway RV donates $20,000 to Lacombe Food Bank

Fraserway RV is Canada’s largest RV dealership and has stores across the country including one in Lacombe.

JJ Collett Natural Area Foundation held its AGM on Oct. 19 at the Ponoka Legion. (Emily Jaycox/Ponoka News)
De-listing Alberta parks creates ‘risk’ for coal mining: CPAWS

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society speaks at JJ Collett AGM

The City of Lacombe hired the consulting company, Moorhouse and Associates, to carry out research for phase one of the Social Master Plan. The plan will help the city to learn what areas need the most support. (Alannah Page/Lacombe Express)
City of Lacombe announces first-ever Social Master Plan

The plan aims to discover what services need the City’s attention over the next five years

B.C. Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson, B.C. NDP leader John Horgan and B.C. Greens leader Sonia Furstenau. (Black Press Media)
VIDEO: One day until B.C. voters go to the polls in snap election defined by pandemic

NDP Leader John Horgan’s decision to call an election comes more than a year ahead of schedule and during a pandemic

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

U.S. border officers at the Peace Arch crossing arrested two men on California warrants this week. (File photo)
Ottawa predicts system delays, backlogs unless court extends life of refugee pact

Canada and the United States recognize each other as safe places to seek protection

Conservative member of Parliament Michelle Rempel Garner, left to right, Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole and Conservative Deputy Leader Candice Bergen arrive to hold a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
No-confidence showdown over sweeping Tory motion on government handling of pandemic

The Conservative motion is to be put to a vote Monday and has the support of both the Bloc Québécois and NDP

From l-r., first lady Melania Trump, President Donald Trump, moderator Kristen Welker of NBC News, Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden on stage at the conclusion of the second and final presidential debate Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020, at Belmont University in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Trump, Biden fight over the raging virus, climate and race

Republican president declared the virus, which killed more than 1,000 Americans on Thursday alone, will “go away.”

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Temporary COVID-19 testing sites coming to Wetaskiwin and Ponoka

The Wetaskiwin location will open Oct. 23, 2020 and the Ponoka location will open Oct. 29.

ACC President and CEO Ken Kobly spoke to Ponoka Chamber of Commerce members over Zoom on Oct. 20. (Image: screenshot)
Alberta chambers are ‘411’ to members, government: ACC president

Changes to government supports, second wave and snap election

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

RCMP. (Black Press File Photo)
Calgary man dies in two-vehicle collision near Sylvan Lake

A semi truck collided with a SUV just east of Hwy. 781 on Hwy 11.

Most Read