Minister affected by cluster describes ‘heartbreak and anger’

Caroline Wawzonek
Caroline Wawzonek at the NWT's legislature in October 2019. Sarah Pruys/Cabin Radio

With many families isolating in Yellowknife, an NWT minister affected by the city’s ongoing Covid-19 outbreak shared an emotional message of empathy and support.

As of Tuesday evening, the territorial government said there were 20 confirmed and seven probable cases of Covid-19 associated with Yellowknife’s NJ Macpherson School cluster. Around 1,000 people in the city are isolating.

Caroline Wawzonek, the MLA for Yellowknife South and the NWT’s industry and finance minister, issued a statement on Twitter in which she described “an extremely difficult time emotionally and psychologically.”

She and her children are contacts to the cluster, Wawzonek said, adding they will soon be tested for Covid-19.



“I have been personally struggling between heartbreak and anger. I am terrified for my children and my friends’ children,” she wrote.

“People deserve to have their elected leadership act like leaders. I believe this includes leading with empathy. I want people to know that I am feeling the impacts of this outbreak very personally.”

Wawzonek encouraged residents to “stay strong,” continue following protocols, and support those who are isolating.

A Facebook group was created earlier this week to help families in isolation get groceries and other essentials.



“We got through a tough lockdown once and we can get through these widespread isolations too,” Wawzonek wrote.

The minister said both she and constituency assistant Sarah Kalnay-Watson would continue to update residents on social media and respond to constituents’ questions. 

“I promise to channel my feelings into action and to do my best in my role to be ready to face whatever comes next,” she wrote. “I am confident that even with this scary outage, the light is still on at the end of the tunnel.” 

Wawzonek is not the only NWT politician isolating.

Caitlin Cleveland, the MLA for Kam Lake, announced on Monday that she had been identified as a close contact of Covid-19 and was isolating. 

“For the last 14 months, I have been the one on errands and grocery stops as others have isolated and this is a very different feeling,” she wrote in a Facebook post.

On April 27, NWT deputy premier and Inuvik Boot Lake MLA Diane Archie said she was isolating after the row in which she was seated on a Canadian North flight was included in a Covid-19 exposure advisory.

“It is an uneasy feeling being told I may have been exposed to Covid-19 and that the virus is in Inuvik, but I take comfort in the fact that the public health orders that are in place have been working for over a year,” she said at the time.

“I am confident that if we all continue to follow the public health measures, we can help decrease the spread of the virus across our territory, and eventually get back to doing the things we love.”