Hay River's Diamond Jenness High School in August 2019. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio
With the start of school on the horizon and many Northwest Territories’ residents displaced by evacuation orders, the premier suggested some children may need to return to virtual learning.
“It will be a little bit difficult,” Premier Caroline Cochrane said during a Sunday night press conference. “We have residents all over but we did virtual [schooling] through Covid so the schools have the ability already to work with students to be virtual, and to make sure that children have their education. So the lessons that we learned in Covid should be able to be implemented into how we’re dealing with these evacuated residents.”
Cochrane said the Department of Education, Culture and Employment – which did not have a spokesperson present at the press conference – was actively looking at how students may return to school.
“When Covid hit, we had to scramble to figure out how to done but we’ve done that,” she said. “So it’ll be a matter of reaching out to parents, getting the word out to evacuees, and making sure that they have the support necessary to be able to complete their education.”
Alberta accommodations extended
Accommodations will be extended indefinitely for evacuees who have registered with an Alberta evacuation centre, the GNWT said.
“If you have registered through an Alberta evacuation centre and are being accommodated in a hotel, this arrangement will continue until your reentry is reorganized,” said Jennifer Young, information officer with the territory’s Emergency Management Organization information officer.
“There is no five day cut off as we have seen suggested on social media.”
To date, approximately 19,000 people have evacuated from the North Slave, 6,800 from the South Slave, and 80 from the Dehcho regions.
Around 12,500 of these people have registered at an evacuation centre in one of 15 towns across Alberta, while another 15 have registered in Winnipeg, 32 in Fort Simpson, and 16 in Whitehorse.
These numbers do not include people who have arranged their own accommodations.
Residents encouraged to apply for income supports
Residents from Fort Smith, Jean Marie River, and Enterprise are eligible for the GNWT’s Evacuee Income Disruption Support Program as of Sunday. It provides one-time funding of $750 for residents whose employment has been affected by an evacuation order lasting more than seven days.
As evacuation orders continue, residents from Hay River and Kátł’odeeche First Nation will become eligible for that funding on Monday, and North Slave evacuees on Thursday.
Residents are also encouraged to apply for employment insurance (EI) benefits, which should start within two weeks of applying.
When asked about supports for self-employed people, who may not be eligible for EI or the territorial income disruption credit, Cochrane said, “That is an issue that honestly we’re going to have to consider.”
Under-housed population evacuated, air evacuees sent to Winnipeg
Evacuation flights out of Yellowknife continue. To register, call (867) 444-0115 or go to Sir John Franklin High School between 9am and 9pm to register in person.
“It’s important to note that all new evacuees leaving by air will be sent to Winnipeg. Evacuees traveling on their own are asked to go to one of the registration centres that are still accepting evacuees in Alberta,” Young said.
Alberta’s website has the latest information on evacuation centres that still have capacity.
The GNWT also confirmed the under-housed population has been evacuated and supports are being provided including access to social workers, and mental health and addictions services.
RCMP Corporal Matt Halstead said police are not encountering any under-housed people in Yellowknife, but if they do, they will connect them with evacuation resources.
“These individuals have their own decision making ability and no one has been forced to leave. But based on our observations and our discussions … we believe the vast majority, if not all, of our shelter users and under-housed have made it to evacuation centres,” he said.