Premier urges communities to not put up blockades

Deninu Kųę́ First Nation set up a blockade soon after a resident in the community had a confirmed case of COVID-19. (Photo retrieved from DKFN's Facebook page).

A handful of leaders around the Northwest Territories have set up roadblocks or checkpoints for people entering their community.

On March 19, K’atlo’deeche First Nation set up a checkpoint monitored by community members to only allow access to the reserve to residents and essential workers.

On April 3, Deninu K’ue did the same hours after leaders learned there was a confirmed case from a resident.

Now, CBC is reporting that Tuktoyaktuk is the latest community to monitor people coming within its limits.

All of these are in addition to the government checkpoints set up following a chief public health officer order restricting travel to the NWT.

On Tuesday, Premier Caroline Cochrane spoke to reporters after announcing that she would be taking over the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs.

During the news conference, she was asked about these communities setting up their own checkpoints.

“A checkpoint at the beginning of your community will not prevent COVID-19,” said Cochrane. “The thing that will prevent COVID-19 from entering your communities and taking over will be listening to the chief public health officer, keeping your distance. That is the answer.”

The premier said that communities should not be making their decisions based on fear.

She urged leaders to focus their efforts on other measures: ensuring food security, reminding residents of physical distancing and proper hygiene, reaching out to them on social media.

Taking down checkpoints?

Ivan Russell, the manager of emergency measures and leader of the Emergency Management Organization, said the territorial state of emergency supersedes those in municipalities.

The premier, who is now overseeing the EMO, said, “I don’t believe that walking in and trying to dismantle (the blockades) is going to be a great answer.”

She added that her priority taking over as MACA minister is to reach out to communities so they can voice their concerns.

“The best thing to do is try and communicate first and if necessary after that then we’ll look at other measures,” she said.

Cochrane said COVID-19 “hit” the government quickly, which led to a lack of communication earlier last month.

Since then, she said the government is working on getting more information out directly to communities and residents.

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.