No tickets, fines, or court summonses have yet been issued in the Northwest Territories related to contravening Covid-19 public health orders.
However, the NWT government’s latest enforcement numbers – released on Wednesday – show the number of warnings given to northerners has steadily increased.
Compared to April 22 numbers, the territory’s pandemic compliance and enforcement team has now received 141 additional calls and emails (532 in total, compared to 391 last week) and issued 23 new written and verbal warnings (up to 97 in total, from 74).
The vast majority of written warnings were given in the Sahtu region, where 38 investigations resulted in 10 written warnings and four verbal warnings.
Comparatively, just one written warning was issued in both the Dehcho and North Slave regions, which had 26 and 242 investigations respectively.
No written warnings were issued in the South Slave region, which had 110 investigations.
The most verbal warnings were issued in the Beaufort Delta at 52. The region had 116 investigations and no written warnings.
Fifteen verbal warnings were issued in the North Slave, 12 in the South Slave, and two in the Dehcho.
Officers ‘have visited 19 communities’
According to Conrad Baetz, who leads the compliance and enforcement team, written warnings are issued to those who have already been given one or more verbal warnings – or where the risk is considered to be higher.
“If there was someone who was found to be outside with a couple of friends while not maintaining their distance, they might be first educated, then given a verbal warning if it happened again,” he explained in an email.
“But if there was a large party at a private house with 20 people at it, a much different approach may need to be taken, including issuing a ticket with a fine.”
Baetz said enforcement officers are given a degree of discretion when it comes to issuing warnings or tickets, much like RCMP officers.
“Each of these warnings reflects the judgement of our public health officers given the individual situations they’re facing,” he wrote.
According to Baetz, most complaints to date were related to gatherings.
Compliance and enforcement officers are currently based in Fort Smith, Hay River, Norman Wells, Fort Simpson, Inuvik, and Yellowknife.
Baetz said the aim is to have at least two to three officers in each region at a time, with more in larger population areas like Yellowknife.
He said officers have so far visited 19 communities to provide public awareness and follow up on complaints.
“We’re making our presence known,” he said.