River Heights School of Music in the News Again!

I’d like to say it was for good or great reasons but, unfortunately it was to wrestle with the Gov’t.

On Saturday February 20th, 2 bylaw officers enter the premise saying we could not do in person lessons. I quote section 75 of the current order “

  1. A business that provides tutoring or other
    individualized educational instruction

You can read the whole 36 page order here.

Officers Not Well Trained

They said they didn’t ‘think’ it applied to us. But they didn’t know. They said that music schools were using this as a loophole. They went away to confirm with a supervisor. The supervisor didn’t know.

So you have some officers and official’s trying to enforce rules they aren’t clear about, while guessing at the 36 page document’s intent and entering and harassing businesses they aren’t sure are even breaking a rule.

Before leaving they threatened fines if WE couldn’t prove our right to be open.

Let me say that again, I was told to prove to them I wasn’t guilty of a crime.

These are bylaw officers. Last year at this time they where writing tickets to home owners for shoveling snow into the street and today they are trying to crush small businesses’ by making up rules.

We have been open for in-person music lessons for all of code red. The majority of our clients opted for video but some, for various reasons including;

  • special needs
  • new to music
  • underpowered internet at home
  • multiple kids doing lessons
  • technical issues
  • general preference

opted for in-person music education.

As you can imagine, after the encounter with these bylaw ‘officers’, I was pretty stressed out. I spent the weekend researching. I was sleeping poorly and not able to enjoy my rare time off.

I woke up early on Monday and started calling gov’t offices. One of the answers I got was “Music Lessons are not to be taught at this time” I asked the Manitoba Health rep (who would not give her full name) what the date of that statement was. She said she could not tell the date. I asked where this statement was located for me to read and she said it was their own data base for internal use only.

So let me say that another way. They have a secret/hidden from the public set of rules.

After hearing this; I went from stressed with fear for my students, teachers and livelihood to mad as hell!! I spent the rest of the morning spamming govt’ officials about this and then the media. By 2pm I had completed 1 TV interview. You can watch the news story here. and one newspaper interview which you can read here.

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Robert Burton owner of River Heights School of Music (suite 202 – 2025 Corydon) Monday afternoon. COVID enforcement officers were going to ticket him in his business located in the Tuxedo Park Shopping Centre, then didn’t because both they — and their superior — weren’t sure if it was allowed or not by health orders. See Kevin Rollason story 210222 – Monday, February 22, 2021.

Whilst all this was going on, a reporter who works for the same station that did my on air interview, asked Dr Roussin about music lessons. Now this guy has a law degree as well as a medical degree so he answered like a lawyer, deflected and was a little vague but ‘sort of’ said music lessons were ok but made it out like music lessons for kids was on the same footing as getting a tattoo or pedicure.

Not Good Enough

So while the off handed answer and remark (like so many this guy has done, like when he turned every back yard in the city into an indoor space and ineligible for gatherings) made fines unlikely, this isn’t good enough for me.

We are education. We prepare musicians for university auditions. We helps kids with thier school music work, we supplement kids music curriculum and we are the music program for home schoolers, we have delivered music courses for charter schools and done in school classes.

To top it off our year end receipts are used to get an educational arts tax credit from the provincial government.

I mentioned my many emails to variously related govt departments because today I got not only confirmation that I was right but an apology.

Thank you for your message, which has been referred to Manitoba Government Inquiry for a response. 

As Manitobans continue to work towards a safe, measured and cautious reopening, provincial public health officials regularly review existing health orders to ensure they continue to accurately reflect their intended purpose. 

Consequently, after further review public health officials can confirm that one-on-one tutoring and individualized music and arts instruction is permitted at business facilities under Schedule item 75, “a business that provides tutoring or other individualized educational instruction” and includes registered home-based businesses. 

We are sorry to hear about the circumstances that have prompted you to contact us, and empathize with the frustration and added stress placed on you. 

Please let us know if you have any further questions. 

Manitoba Government Inquiry  

Communication Services Manitoba  

Manitoba Finance  

I should also note, that because we were not required to close, we did not take any of the code red funding. Business’ that decided to close were not eligible and may be liable or forced to repay.

The next Saturday, the exact same officers came to our business. They said we were good to go on lessons (like we already knew) but promised/threatened to come back everyweek to check on us.
Really, we’re doing nothing wrong but you’re going to check on us?
Isn’t there a multi-national corporation in town to check up on? Are you only targeting small businesses because you can bully them?