The Premier of the Northwest Territories says stricter pandemic enforcement measures, likely to be introduced in the coming week, will target illegal hunting among other concerns.
Earlier this week, the NWT government reported the illegal slaughter of dozens of caribou from the already decimated Bathurst herd.
Hunters are estimated to have killed at least one percent of the remaining herd in the last two weeks alone, despite a mobile no-hunting zone being in place.
Premier Caroline Cochrane said she expected the territory to get tougher on illegal hunting in the near future, alongside further enforcement measures – the details of which remain vague.
“Illegal hunting is happening currently,” Cochrane told reporters on Saturday.
“People are afraid, so they are mass hunting – instead of using the tags allocated – and disrespecting the herds that are in jeopardy.”
Some community leaders have called for tighter restrictions on travel to and from smaller communities to heighten their protection from Covid-19. It’s not clear if new measures will address those concerns.
Others, like the Dene Nation, are seeking to reduce the availability of liquor, partly as a means of halting gatherings where the virus might spread. The Dene Nation has also requested funding to provide supports for people who would suffer alcohol withdrawal as a result.
On Friday, the NWT’s finance minister said some additional liquor restrictions could be looked at on a case-by-case basis, but were unlikely to be implemented territory-wide.
‘Our fear is people will desensitize’
The NWT’s chief public health officer, Dr Kami Kandola, said on Friday the territory was “moving towards stronger enforcement and you will hear more about that next week.”
Dr Kandola told Cabin Radio the NWT was “increasing our capacity to do more enforcement [and] the measures will be more stringent.”
Asked to elaborate on Saturday, Cochrane did not provide specifics other than to voice her concern about illegal hunting.
She said in a live-streamed news conference: “We’ve been getting all our basic tools in place. Our fear is that people will desensitize, people will forget. People think they’re safe. They are not safe. We are putting enforcement measures in place.
“There are many areas we are looking at. We spent the last couple of weeks getting our basic needs in place … now we’re carrying it one step forward.
“That means looking at all of the areas [and] protecting our residents, and our animals, and land. If it takes stronger enforcement, we will do that.”
Investigation into fourth case continues
Meanwhile, Kandola said her office was continuing to investigate the circumstances by which the NWT’s fourth Covid-19 patient came to self-isolate in a small community rather than one of four larger centres.
The patient, who is now being treated at Stanton Territorial Hospital, arrived back in the NWT a day after Kandola had issued an order mandating 14 days of self-isolation in a large community before heading anywhere smaller.
The person should have self-isolated in a community like Hay River before making their way to Fort Resolution. They were eventually taken from Fort Resolution to Yellowknife by medevac on Thursday night.
In the past, Kandola has warned a $10,000 fine and six months’ imprisonment could be handed to anyone failing to comply.
The NWT government is highly unlikely to pursue any action until the patient has recovered and left hospital.
Even then, exactly what happened during their journey to Fort Resolution remains unclear.
Ivan Russell, representing the NWT government’s emergency management team, said on Saturday: “We are not certain of the circumstances.”
Russell said the person returned to the territory while border restrictions were still being finalized by staff. One aspect of the investigation will look at whether that contributed to the person ultimately self-isolating in the wrong place.
“It was on a weekend and it took time to roll out arrangements for all our checkpoints,” he said.
“We didn’t have immediate, 24-hour coverage. Certainly, within a couple of days we did. We’re still checking into the details of how that happened.”
Kandola has said contact tracers will notify anyone known to have had direct exposure to the patient that caused risk of coronavirus transmission.