There is a development that has made members of communities in Hutterite colonies across Western Canada to feel targeted after the area became the epicenter of recent COVID-19 outbreaks. They have become the focus of press conferences even as the religious group has long considered themselves to be quite private. During a press briefing on Tuesday to announce that they would be limiting the essential travel to a small number of designated individuals, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe stated that the community is a concern.
After the announcement of 60 new cases of COVID-19 within the province, 43 of which were from a single Hutterite colony, Scott indicated that limited travels include areas between Hutterite communities. On Saturday alone, 29 cases were reported from Hutterite colonies in the central and south regions of the province, out of the 37 new cases announced in Saskatchewan. Across Saskatchewan and Manitoba, more than 20 colonies have reported cases of COVID-19. Manitoba health officials confirmed that seven of the day’s eight new cases were on Hutterite colonies in a news release on Wednesday.
Because of the new rise in COVID-19 cases, the Authorities indicated that the public should not discriminate against or stigmatize members of these communities. Even though they have zero COVID-19 cases within their community, Saskatchewan’s Arm River Colony says business is down about 20 percent. George Hofer, poultry manager of the Arm River Farming Company, said that they are not all the same again. To stay protected from the virus, Colony members say they have followed public health rules.
Paul Waldner, a minister from the CanAm Hutterite Colony, stated that they have shut down their kitchens, they ate at home, family-wise, and they didn’t even bend the rules. There are threats to file a human rights complaint about officials publicly identifying from Hutterites colonies as the location of these outbreaks after Waldner sent a letter to Manitoba’s premier and health minister. This action has directly led to discrimination against other Hutterite colonies and Hutterites in general.
That demographic data has also been shared in case it happens the COVID-19 case would surface among groups, including First Nations communities, airline passengers, or truck drivers. Arthur Shafer stated that authorities need to be transparent about COVID-19 data. He is an ethicist who teaches philosophy at the University of Manitoba. He also added that public trust is probably the most precious resource that public health officials have in a time of the pandemic. According to him, Manitoba public health should have given all the information they did, but they also have to stress that all the public health rules were followed.