Skip to main content
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week for 24 weeks
Access every election story that matters
Enjoy unlimited digital access
$1.99
per week
for 24 weeks
// //

Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane is pictured during a news conference after a meeting with Canada's provincial premiers in Toronto on Dec. 2, 2019.

CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

The Northwest Territories is creating a squad of public health officers specifically to enforce orders around the COVID-19 pandemic.

“If you choose to ignore orders and endanger our communities, we’ll be coming for you,” Diane Thom, the territory’s health minister, said Wednesday.

Under rules put in place March 31, everyone arriving in the N.W.T. is required to submit a self-isolation plan. Anyone returning to one of the territory’s many remote communities, where living conditions could make it easy for the novel coronavirus to spread, must first spend two weeks in an isolation centre in one of the larger centres.

Story continues below advertisement

The N.W.T.’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kami Kandola, said the response was needed because her office was receiving too many complaints about people not following the rules.

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

“We’ve received over 180 (complaints),” she said. “Most of them are related to compliance with that public health order.”

The order provides for penalties of up to $10,000 and six months in jail for individuals, and up to $50,000 for corporations.

Enforcement officers will be empowered to issue tickets and court summonses, said Conrad Baetz, who will be in charge of the squad and has been named deputy chief medical officer of health.

Officers will also be asked to monitor mass gatherings, although those haven’t yet been banned by a public health order.

“We don’t have a specific process to shut down every party,” Baetz said.

“One of the things we will be able to do is assess the risk to the public based on what’s being observed. It does create more of a challenge for public health officers, who may require the assistance of RCMP.”

Story continues below advertisement

Kandola said guidelines around things such as gatherings will become orders over the coming days.

So far, the N.W.T. has five confirmed cases of COVID-19.

But officials are concerned about the virus getting a foothold in one of its 33 small, remote communities. It could spread quickly in overcrowded homes and easily overwhelm health facilities.

Baetz said officers will be drawn from several government departments where staff have law enforcement training. He says they will be present across the territory.

The enforcement squad will be uniformed and will draw authority from the Public Health Act.

Premier Caroline Cochrane said the enforcement squad is unfortunate but necessary.

Story continues below advertisement

“We don’t want to do the enforcement, but we have to.”

Sign up for the Coronavirus Update newsletter to read the day’s essential coronavirus news, features and explainers written by Globe reporters.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

UPDATED: Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies