The Northwest Territories has three privacy laws that serve to protect the privacy of individuals.
These Acts govern the collection, use, and disclosure of personal or health information. Each Act contains provisions to allow for the sharing of personal or health information in the event of an emergency.
All three Acts require that any collection, use or disclosure of personal information or health information be limited to that which is needed to achieve the purpose of the collection, use or disclosure.
Like any outbreak or pandemic like measles, pertussis, or H1N1, the NWT’s policy during COVID-19 has been to not name small communities when cases are announced as long as there are no public exposure risks.
Naming small communities can result in the easy identification of a person, which could lead to shaming and abuse,especially through social media. This can lead to people being afraid to get help, which puts themselves and others at risk.
There is no value in naming a community and risking the stigma that can come with identification if there is no public exposure risk.
If contacts cannot be traced to a person with an infection, and there is a risk to the broader public, locations, dates, and times where people could have been exposed may be named – no matter the size of a community.
Health officials will be as transparent as possible as long as it does not threaten anyone’s safety or privacy.
Communities with larger populations like Inuvik, Fort Smith, Hay River, and Yellowknife are named by default because there is much less risk of a person being identified simply by location.