Tourists or no tourists, that is the question the Government of the Northwest Territories took some time to properly to answer.
Normally, the status of tourism in the neighbouring territory would be trivial for most but since the Government of Nunavut has agreed to a restriction-free travel bubble between the territories, it is important to clear things up.
With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, health officials in the NWT closed the borders and turned away anyone who wasn’t an essential worker.
Then, fearing a travel ban would prompt Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenges, Premier Caroline Cochrane went on live TV with CBC’s Rosemary Barton on June 8 and welcomed tourists from other provinces “as long as they completed 14 days of isolation.”
Queue confused and panicked government communications staff trying to make sense of this.
Cochrane later apologized for the confusion while her chief public health officer clarified that as of June 12, once again, leisure travel will not be permitted in the NWT, with the exception of those coming from Nunavut.
This has likely sparked confusion so it will be important for doubting Nunavummiut to remember that despite recent media gaffes, the NWT will be a safe place to visit and there shouldn’t be a wave of Covid entering from the west. There hasn’t been a case of Covid there for eight weeks.
If there has ever been a time to go shopping or see family and friends living in the NWT, it’s now.
On the heels of the travel bubble also came news that medical travel will now be permitted into Churchill, Man., from the North.
This will present a new set of challenges for Nunavummiut from the Kivalliq or elsewhere who will go south for treatment. Manitoba is currently opening up to travel with western provinces and parts of Ontario in phase three of their plan in an attempt to get an up-tick in travel and tourism, even to Churchill.
It will be important that travellers keep to themselves or interact with people cautiously because even though it is increasingly improbable, bringing Covid into Nunavut is not yet impossible.
Nunavummiut have something to be proud of. The prudent actions taken by the government and the sacrifices of residents has kept the pandemic from the shores of Nunavut entirely, but Canada cannot stay closed forever.
Reopening needs to happen for a lot of reasons, whether it’s stopping the national deficit from growing, preventing supply-chains from breaking or allowing Canadians to keep their sanity.
Although the road to reopening has been, and likely will continue to be, full of speed bumps, the greatest challenge for chief public health officer Michael Patterson and the rest of the health department lays ahead: calling workers back into the territory and planning for the reopening of schools and government offices.