A Fort Providence resident and the Dene Nation are among those pressing the territorial government to strengthen border enforcement as Covid-19 remains a concern.
Linda Croft, a hamlet councillor and cashier at Big River Service Centre, started a change.org petition called Stop Illegal NWT Border Crossings on July 7. The petition, which as of Wednesday night had 280 signatures, calls for Premier Caroline Cochrane, Minister of Health Diane Thom and members of the legislative assembly to ensure “persons crossing our border are thoroughly verified before being allowed to travel further.”
Croft, who sent a letter to Protect NWT several weeks ago, has repeatedly raised concerns about her own personal safety as a worker at the service centre in Fort Providence because it’s one of the main stops for gas and supplies between the Highway 1 border entry point and Yellowknife, where visitors can self-isolate.
The petition alleges that “there are too many travellers still crossing the NWT border without following the isolation guidelines” and that not enough is being done to protect NWT residents from Covid-19.
“These people are not quarantining; many provide false information to the border crossing agents,” states the petition. “These people are stopping at our local businesses and visiting our communities at will.”
The petition also alleges that there are people gaining entry who have Northern identification but who reside in southern cities where Covid-19 is more prevalent.
‘Proceed with extra caution,’ Dene Nation advises
Similar to Croft’s concerns about southerners bringing Covid-19 north, the Dene Nation sent out a news release on July 7 asking the GNWT to “proceed with extra caution when it comes to reopening the borders.”
National Chief Norman Yakeleya stated that there are dangers to the health of Dene people because of Covid-19 cases in the south, namely in Alberta.
“The diligence and commitment of Dr. Kami Kandola has ensured our communities and Dene people have remained safe and healthy,” he stated. “However, that’s not the case in Alberta with recent outbreaks in both Edmonton and Calgary. We cannot risk any lives, particularly (those that) are most vulnerable. ”
Yakeleya specifically stated that leaders in Clearwater Dene Nation, a small community in northwestern Saskatchewan, have reported “hundreds of Covid-19 cases since the outbreak began.”
“Clearwater Dene Nation vice-chief Richard Durocher has indicated health officials determined that the virus was brought to the community by residents who live on the reserve but travel to work in the oil industry near Fort McMurray, Alta. where it is believed they contracted Covid-19,” the news release reads.
The virus in the small Saskatchewan community worsened, in part, because of overcrowded housing and alcohol addiction, according to the news release.
“Dene Nation leadership acknowledges the potential impact to the Northern economy as a result of the border closure, and rebuilding our economy requires full collaboration of all levels of government,” Yakeleya stated. “No one can do it alone. The Dene Nation supports a full rebuilding of our Northern economy as we outlined in Resetting the Sail: Dene Nation Economic Recovery Action Plan.”