Some Fort Smith residents expressed concern after seeing men who appeared to be out-of-territory fishermen in town over the weekend.
The lodge for which the men work told Cabin Radio the company had received permission from Protect NWT for the men to transit through the community.
Dana Fergusson, owner of the Pelican Rapids Inn, wrote on Facebook that she had spoken with eight men eating in the hotel’s Pelican Restaurant after seeing their out-of-town vehicles.
They told her Protect NWT said they could pass through the NWT on the way to their final destination, Cheemo Lodge in northern Saskatchewan, so long as they didn’t spend more than 12 hours in the territory.
“[Border control] didn’t tell them not to stop in stores, eat in restaurants, and shop along the way,” she wrote. “I let them know they are not supposed to be going into public spaces like stores and restaurants. They seemed very surprised.”
Mike Westwick, a Government of the Northwest Territories spokesperson, said the territory’s enforcement team assessed the situation over the weekend after receiving Fergusson’s tip.
“Our border checkpoint staff are providing appropriate direction to folks based on their status at the border checkpoints – there should be no one surprised that there are rules to abide by when travelling within the NWT if you have come from another province or territory,” he wrote to Cabin Radio.
“The individuals in question represented themselves as being persons in transit to another jurisdiction. They would have 12 hours to be in the territory and must not socialize or make any non-essential stops. Essential stops would be for things like gas, for example.”
The territorial government did not immediately clarify whether stopping for food in a restaurant or grocery store is considered essential.
Carol Granger owns the lodge, on Tazin Lake. Granger said Protect NWT told her that as long as her workers weren’t in the NWT for longer than 12 hours, “they were free to go.”
Granger was not able to confirm what additional information the men were given by border control when they crossed the NWT-Alberta border on their way to Fort Smith. They flew from Fort Smith to reach the lodge.
She did, however, clarify that the men in question were workers, not tourists.