Manitoba health minister stops short of apology to doctors for comments this week

Steve Lambert
·2 min read

WINNIPEG — Manitoba's health minister has stopped short of apologizing to doctors for questioning why they wrote a letter with COVID-19 warnings, but says he could have better chosen his words.

Cameron Friesen was criticized this week for remarks he made to a legislature committee.

Friesen told the committee he questioned why 200 doctors and scientists had signed a letter that warned the COVID-19 pandemic was spiralling out of control in the province.

Friesen said the letter appeared to have been timed to create chaos in the health-care system during a time when COVID-19 numbers were rising.

The Opposition New Democrats called on Friesen to apologize or resign, and one of the doctors who signed the letter said she found Friesen's comments disgraceful.

Friesen is not saying sorry, but says he could have expressed himself better and avoided using the term "motivation."

"If I could go back, I would choose a different noun," Friesen said Thursday.

"Do I regret a noun that I used in a heated exchange with an opposition member? Yes. I live in a world of words and there's thousands of them that I put on the record every single day. I could have chosen a better word."

Friesen still appeared to allude to the motivation of doctors while responding to questions.

"I'll let Manitobans draw their own conclusions about the timing of that letter exactly — this Monday, on the day of the highest cases coming out. What doctors want from this government is knowledge about the (COVID-19) plan. I'm going to provide that to doctors."

The NDP was not impressed.

"To be quite frank, I think that's pathetic," health critic Uzoma Asagwara said.

"When you have people who are literally putting their health and safety, and the health and safety of their families at risk — going into our hospitals, fighting COVID-19 — and you insult those very people … and you refuse to apologize? That's a hundred per cent unacceptable."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 5, 2020.

Steve Lambert, The Canadian Press