The Premier of the Northwest Territories on Tuesday issued a statement defending one of her top pandemic officials after a report suggested he may have broken a province’s Covid-19 rules.
Russell Neudorf, head of the NWT’s Covid-19 Secretariat, was reported by the CBC to have travelled with his wife to a home his family owns in Kelowna, British Columbia, to spend time with their three adult children over the holidays.
Neudorf was among six senior GNWT staff now reported to have travelled south despite forceful pleas from Premier Caroline Cochrane and the territory’s chief public health officer that residents stay home.
While travelling south isn’t in itself a breach of the NWT’s pandemic rules, on Tuesday, newspaper publisher NNSL suggested Neudorf may have broken BC’s Covid-19 rules in heading there.
In that report, a spokesperson for the province – quoting its rules document verbatim – stated: “No person may host an event at a private residence or vacation accommodation where there is a person present who is not an occupant.”
A range of exceptions to that rule exist. An event is defined by BC as “an in-person gathering of people in any place.”
Responding to that report on Tuesday afternoon, Premier Cochrane said the BC government had advised her that Neudorf did not fall foul of any provincial pandemic health orders.
“As we have said in the past, the GNWT is confident that senior officials who travelled during the holidays have followed public health orders,” Cochrane said on Twitter.
“We have confirmed with the BC government that Mr Neudorf complied with requirements in the province.”
Cabin Radio’s own attempts to reach the BC government for comment were stymied. A spokesperson invited a reporter to study the province’s website instead.
After this article was first published, a spokesperson provided an email reproducing parts of BC’s relevant public health order and stating: “While there is no order in BC restricting travel around the province … we are advising in the strongest terms that people stay in their local community, reduce their social interactions and travel only when it is essential.”
Calls to Neudorf were not returned.
Meaghan Brackenbury contributed reporting.