Chief public health officer gives reminder and warning after reports of gatherings

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 said “nothing is off the table” when it comes to enforcing her orders to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

However, she stopped short from saying she’d issue an outright ban on all gatherings.

For now, her office has only recommended residents not come together.

“We’re considering all our options and we’re undertaking the necessary discussions,” she told media on Wednesday. “We’ll keep you updated.”

She gave both a reminder to residents: “Bringing people together outside of your physical household is one of the quickers ways to spread the virus and hurt our community,”; and a warning: “For those of you who feel invincible, we are receiving reports from the RCMP about crowded houses and apartment parties … you’re bringing unnecessary danger.”

Despite multiple reports of funerals and gatherings, Dr. Kandola said her office is still taking an education-first approach to enforcement.

Enforcement is warnings and reminders until her office issues an order banning all gatherings with specific penalties—like the possible six-month jail time and $10,000 fine for not following the travel restrictions.

Dr. Kandola reiterated that it doesn’t matter whether gatherings are outside, at a remote cabin, or out on the land; anytime people from different households come together, it’s a risk of spreading the virus.

“We do understand that this is a very difficult time with lots of change to how we interact,” she said. “However, this is the time to strengthen our connection with our family, connect with those in your households.”

Resident complaints

The Government of the Northwest Territories has set up a tip line where residents can complain if they see someone disobeying orders like self-isolation and travel restrictions.

These orders will continue for the foreseeable future due to the confirmation of a second case of COVID-19 in the NWT.

Dr. Kandola said her office has received 85 complaints so far. Fifty-eight have been closed after “taking the necessary correction action like warnings and education measures,” 10 resulted in no action and 16 are still underway.

CKLB asked if the public would know the result of some of these investigations, for example the case of Mike ‘Pike’ Harrison, who chose to not self-isolate in Hay River and drove to his remote cabin.

Dr. Kandola simply said investigations and enforcement are measured by risk level, raging from low to very high. She added that her office would continue to update the public on its enforcement efforts.

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.