Chief public health officer calls out resident defying travel restriction orders

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola (left) and Health and Social Services Minister Diane Thom during a news conference in March. (Francis Tessier-Burns/CKLB).

NWT Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola is denouncing a resident that ignored her orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

For the past week, all NWT residents returning to the territory need to spend 14 days in self-isolation in either Yellowknife, Hay River, Inuvik or Fort Smith.

As reported by Northern News Services, resident Mike ‘Pike’ Harrison, of Ice Road Rebels fame, is choosing to defy that order and drive to his remote cabin at Lindberg Landing in the Dehcho, about 470 kilometres west of Hay River.

Harrison had been travelling in southern B.C.; he says he was forced to drive all the way to Hay River after coming up to a closed Highway 7.

On Saturday, March 28, Dr. Kandola responded to Harrison’s decision to not self-isolate in Hay River.

“When Mike Harrison chose to ignore this order, he decided not to do his part,” she said in a statement sent to all media. “He chose to prioritize his own personal comfort over the safety of our territory. And he chose to go on to embolden others to ignore our medical direction by touting his act in the media.”

Dr. Kandola said by travelling to southern B.C. and Alberta, Harrison “fits the profile of a risky returning resident – the exact kind for which we instituted these orders.”

Harrison argued that the closing of Highway 7 effectively put more people at risk since he was forced to make a much longer drive, and stop for food and gas.

“In spite of his assertions, he did not do anyone any favours by avoiding additional stops for gas,” said Dr. Kandola. “There are good guidelines to be followed when making these kinds of stops.”

Full statement here: NWT Chief Public Healt Officer Denounces Those Ignoring Order

‘Unnecessary strain’

Part of the reason for keeping residents in one of the regional centres when they return is to ensure they have access to proper medical facilities if they develop COVID-19 symptoms.

Dr. Kandola said if Harrison developed symptoms at his remote cabin, “this could put unnecessary strain on our medical system at the time it needs it least.”

Dr. Kandola added that her office will be investigating.

Harrison acknowledged to NNSL that he was flaunting the orders, saying it would be “funny” if the investigation ended up in court.

He argued that he was being forced to follow a policy that benefited communities and his individual situation wasn’t taken into account.

“There is no denying there are inconveniences we’re all now facing,” said Dr. Kandola. “But pandemics are more than inconvenient – they’re an extraordinary challenge that we need to make sacrifices to overcome.”

These sacrifices, she added, are to protect residents most at risk.

About the Author

Francis Tessier-Burns
Francis was a reporter with CKLB from January 2019 to March 2023. In his time with CKLB, he had the immense pleasure and honour of learning about northern Indigenous cultures.