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NWT examines alleged Fort Simpson funeral isolation infractions


The village of Fort Simpson is dealing with the fallout after allegations that out-of-territory visitors came to the community and did not properly isolate.

On CBC’s Trailbreaker radio show, Dr Kami Kandola said her department was aware of “unauthorized entry” to attend the funeral of community matriarch Mary Louise Norwegian.

The Office of the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) confirmed to Cabin Radio it is investigating the incident to find out exactly what happened.

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A 14-day period of self-isolation – in one of four larger NWT communities, which does not include Fort Simpson – is mandatory for almost all people arriving in or returning to the territory.

“We did not authorize anyone to attend any event without self-isolating or taking other precautions, as a report which was filed with us suggests may have occurred,” said Mike Westwick, a territorial government spokesperson.

“We would not provide such authorization – it is explicitly against our public health orders.

Westwick said any non-resident can enter the territory to live, work, study, or traditionally harvest, if appropriate self-isolation protocols are followed. However, he reminded visitors and residents alike that falsifying information comes with consequences.

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“Misrepresenting information to public health officers is an offence and is not taken lightly,” said Westwick. “If the incident is confirmed, consequences could include a summary offence ticket information charge like those handed down to eight others so far.”

Westwick said there was “no indication anyone in Fort Simpson should be worried right now,” adding: “If anyone was a possible close contact of a positive case, we would get a hold of them and provide the appropriate advice.

“It’s natural to feel some anxiety when you see things that aren’t right in your community. But the number one thing you can do to take control of the situation is to take precautions in your day-to-day.”

Those include physical distancing, hand washing, disinfection of surfaces, and staying home and contacting your local health centre for a test if not feeling well.

Base choices on ‘facts and not rumours’

Village staff meanwhile said Fort Simpson’s municipal office will close to the public until plexiglass screens arrive some time next week. The recreation centre has a limit of five users at a time, while people accessing administrative services for fob or membership renewals are required to wear masks inside at all times.

A message posted to social media stated local business Rowe’s Construction had closed its doors to the public “due to visitors from out of the territory … to ensure the safety of its workers.” 

Owen Rowe, however, said the closure wasn’t over a specific concern about the funeral.

“It has nothing to do with the funeral,” said Rowe. “[It’s for the] safety of our employees, nothing else.”

Fort Simpson Mayor Sean Whelly said he didn’t personally see that visitors from out of town weren’t following isolation protocols.

“The way it all played out, I guess there was some social distancing not followed, apparently,” he said.

“The village offices did close because they had a concern that maybe some of their own staff had been exposed. It’s all related to the Workers’ Safety and Compensation Commission’s issues of employee safety.”

Whelly concluded: “My advice to people is follow or make your decisions based on facts and not rumours – and ask the chief public health officer for advice in determining closures and employee safety, and assisting in making better decisions.”

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