The election of a Dene National Chief, scheduled to take place next month, may be delayed as the number of Covid-19 cases climbs in the Northwest Territories.
The election is currently earmarked for September 15 at the Dene National Assembly in Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́. Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya is running for re-election against Gerald Antoine, who is currently Chief of the Łı́ı́dlı̨ı̨ Kų́ę́ First Nation.
At a news conference on Thursday addressing the NWT’s growing Covid-19 outbreak, Yakeleya said the election may need to be postponed.
“I would like to take a pause and turn my attention and my priorities on the safety and the protection of the people,” Yakeleya told reporters.
“My campaign is going to be put on pause while I turn my attention to ensure that we get through this as a nation.”
Yakeleya said he had contacted Chief Antoine and called a meeting of the grand chiefs to discuss the election date and whether it will be safe for people to gather. He said the grand chiefs will make a decision in consultation with the Dene Nation’s bylaws and constitution.
“This is very unprecedented, very unusual,” Yakeleya said. “We’ve got a deadly virus out there that is hurting people, even killing people, and we’ve got to deal with the storm.”
By Thursday evening there were 170 reported active cases of Covid-19 in the territory, the vast majority in the Sahtu region. Around three-dozen cases are confirmed to be the highly infectious Delta variant of Covid-19, while the rest await analysis.
Territorial health minister Julie Green has said she expects the number of cases to grow in a “very alarming” way.
Colville Lake and Fort Good Hope are under a containment order that prohibits gatherings. The two communities and nearby Norman Wells have declared states of emergency.
North-Wright Airways has suspended scheduled flights to and from Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake and says flights to other Sahtu communities may be cancelled at short notice.