A pandemic-related checkpoint is resuming at the border between Fort Smith and Alberta.
In a Friday press release, the NWT government said the checkpoint would resume immediately with public health officers monitoring travellers entering the territory. It said the checkpoint is in response to “concerns related to increased summer traffic.”
A previous border checkpoint “wound down” when the Fort Chipewyan winter road shut down, around March 26, according to government spokesperson Mike Westwick.
“With road travel cut off to other communities in Alberta and the rivers still reliably ice-ridden, there wasn’t much of a path for communities outside the Fort Fitz/Smith’s Landing/Fort Smith corridor so it wasn’t really an imperative to have a check stop there,” he said in an email.
According to the release, travel between Fort Smith and Smith’s Landing, Fort Fitzgerald and Pine Lake, Alberta, will remain unrestricted as long as people entering the territory have not visited communities outside the immediate region of northern Alberta in the last 14 days.
Concerns with the previously unmanned border were raised by Keith Morrison, Fort Smith’s senior administrative officer, at a town council meeting last month. He said without a checkpoint, people could travel further south into Alberta without anyone knowing – and possibly bring back Covid-19.
Allegations that suspected drug traffickers have been evading border checkstops has also been a concern in Fort Smith.
Fort Smith’s RCMP detachment commander, Sergeant Geoffrey Peters, had told town councillors on May 19, that suspected drug traffickers were reaching the community from High Level, Alberta, despite border restrictions and a checkpoint at the Highway 1 border. He said addressing drug trafficking in Fort Smith is a priority for the detachment.
The NWT government has insisted border staff are conducting appropriate screening at checkpoints. That includes requiring travellers entering the territory to show identification, complete a self-isolation plan, or provide a letter from an employer if they are an essential worker.