Manitoba health minister apologizes for breaking public health orders

Manitoba's health minister has apologized after appearing in a photo breaking the indoor mask mandate at an event over the weekend.

Pictures shared on Facebook Sunday by Families Minister Rochelle Squires show herself, along with Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Minister Cathy Cox (Sport Culture and Heritage), posing for a photo with a group of people at an event at the Winnipeg Art Gallery – all are unmasked.

"It's unfortunate and it was wrong and that should not have happened and for that I deeply apologize," Gordon said during a news conference on Monday.

"I do believe that as minister of health I should be held to higher standard and I have always upheld that standard."

Gordon said she had attended a social event at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, and had removed her mask while sitting at her table to eat and drink.

"While I was seated at the table I was asked to pose for a photo, and I got up and joined the group in the photo neglecting to wear my mask," Gordon said.

"I want to apologize for that because as the health minister, as I said, I have been a role model in terms of the restrictions and encouraging individuals to adhere to the restrictions and at that one particular time I do regret that I didn't think much deeper about my decision to pose for the photo. And for that I ask for forgiveness – I feel very badly about that today."

Squires and Cox also apologized for not wearing a mask in the photo.

A spokesperson for the Winnipeg Art Gallery told CTV News it held its annual fundraising gala on Saturday evening.

"Guests were advised to wear face masks when not seated unless taking a sip of a drink. Some chose to remove masks for a moment to have their photo taken," the spokesperson said in a statement.

"We increased staff and volunteer presence to escort guests to tables, to hold doors open to reduce contact points, to remind guests to wear masks throughout the evening, and to increase sanitization."

The spokesperson said proof of double immunization was required from guests at the event.

Current public health orders require masks be worn in indoor public places, but specify that masks can be removed temporarily when eating or drinking. Manitoba currently has a $298 fine in place for violating the indoor mask mandate rule.

Gordon said she has not heard if she will be fined, but said if she is handed a ticket – she will pay it.