Katrina Nokleby: News Conference, New Orders Announced in the NWT to Protect Against COVID-19

Ministers' Statements and Speeches

Yellowknife — April 10, 2020

First of all I want to recognize what you all already know, that all Northwest Territories businesses are making difficult decisions as they implement what is being asked of them to limit the spread of COVID-19 across our territory.

The Government of the Northwest Territories recognize this.  

We acknowledge that it is happening at a cost to business owners and entrepreneurs in the North; and we will continue to seek out, identify, and facilitate ways to support your efforts and address these challenges.

Today, Dr. Kandola is implementing new orders around Mining and Oil and Gas. These companies have worked closely with our public health officials to implement many of these measures as advice already. 

I want to emphasize that these are not measures that begin today. This mine order captures many of the precautions and safety protocols that mineral and petroleum companies have already put in place through their own efforts, and following the guidance of Public Health Officials from across the country.

I want to thank our resource companies in particular for working with us and taking extraordinary measures to protect their workforce and to committing to operate safely for as long as they can. 

Through this COVID-19 pandemic, our resources companies have proven themselves to be strong corporate citizens, and protocols have been in place to ensure the health and safety of our residents.

For instance, all transient employees entering the Northwest Territories are being screened with temperature testing, questionnaires, and pre-departure screening calls.  If an employee or contractor shows signs of illness or has a higher exposure risk, they are told to remain at home.

Charter aircraft flights have been introduced as much as possible to separate the travel of northern and southern workers and to reduce or eliminate interactions with commercial airline travellers. Charter flights protocols now include enhanced cleaning of aircraft, changes to or elimination of food and beverage services, and physical distancing measures.

On sites, companies have been following enhanced hygiene and cleaning awareness and practices for several weeks now. Social distancing measures have been incorporated for safety meetings, transportation, all work spaces, and in dining halls and accommodations. As much as possible, southern workers are being segregated from northern workers. 

All operators have also established dedicated quarantine facilities and practices. 

Companies will quarantine and treat any worker with COVID-19 symptoms. Medical personnel are on site to deal with situations that occur, and there will be no hesitation in using medevac services should advance medical care be deemed necessary.

Our resource companies have worked to inform their immediate staff of the precautions that are being taken.  They have also worked to inform their communities and Indigenous IBA partners regularly, as well as reach out to see what the community needs are and help in the ways that they can during these tough times.  

Similarly, the Premier and I have also taken steps to inform and advise our territory’s leaders of the extraordinary steps and initiatives being taken at these sites.

The situation is evolving quickly across Canada which is why these additional measures are needed. By implementing these orders, we continue to ensure the right precautions are in-place to protect NWT residents from the risks of having a southern transient workforce entering the territory.

It is our goal to reduce the risks that exists from COVID-19. We recognize that this is and will be as much of an economic crisis as it is a health one.

But we are assured that the precautions that are being taken mean our remote work sites are as safe as they can be.   With the restrictions and considerations that have been put in place, our government is supportive of continued operations at worksites that have chosen to follow this path.

I would also like to recognize the importance of the resource sector to the North, now and in the future.  This includes not just our mining industry, but also our advanced project and exploration companies. 

I want to reassure businesses and residents that the Government of the Northwest Territories understands the challenges you are faced with and takes this situation very seriously. 

Safety is our number one priority, but next to that is ensuring that our economy remains healthy and people feel secure.

I would now like to turn it over to Dr. Kandola to explain the details of the Orders being addressed today.