Construction workers coming to Nunavut must complete 14-day isolation first

Minister says 400 to 500 workers will come to Nunavut this season to work in 19 communities

All construction workers coming to Nunavut to work on both private and municipal projects this season will need to spend 14 days in a southern isolation hub, Nunavut’s minister of community and government services said on Thursday, May 28. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

All construction workers coming to Nunavut this season will need to self-isolate in a southern hotel before doing so, says the Government of Nunavut.

This falls in line with the GN’s COVID-19 travel restrictions, which require all Nunavut residents to self-isolate in one of four isolation hubs for 14 days before returning to the territory.

Since March 24, only Nunavut residents and critical workers have been permitted to enter the territory.

Lorne Kusugak, minister of community and government services, said 19 of Nunavut’s 25 hamlets want construction projects to go ahead in their communities this summer and fall.

“Municipalities had the full say to decide whether or not these projects should proceed,” Kusugak said, speaking at a news conference on Thursday, May 28.

That includes 50 capital projects valued at $600 million, Kusugak said.

“We need to balance the long-term infrastructure needs for communities with the current COVID-19 restrictions,” Kusugak said.

All construction workers coming from outside Nunavut will self-isolate for 14 days at hotel sites in Ottawa and Quebec City. Some may also self-isolate in the existing hubs, Kusugak said.

“The GN will control and monitor these measures at these isolation facilities in the south during the 14 days, including up until workers board their planes,” Kusugak said.

To date, 100 construction workers have booked stays in the isolation hubs. Kusugak said he expects an additional 125 workers to book by Sunday.

Kusugak said he also expects 400 to 500 construction workers to move through the territory during the season.

The GN said the only additional cost to the government for the already-approved construction projects will be paying for the 14-day isolation stays for construction workers, which include meals.

“Right now the construction companies that are coming up to do the work have contractual obligations that were there to begin with. The only extra, additional cost would be the isolation hubs and having them to sit in isolation for two weeks,” Kusugak said.

Kusugak said the GN and contracted construction companies are still negotiating “what kind of remuneration they will have while they stay in the hubs.”

Companies working on private projects, as opposed to municipal projects, will be responsible for paying their workers’ wages during the 14 days, Kusugak said.

Outside travel to Nunavut “highest risk” of COVID-19

When the Government of Nunavut released its plan for easing COVID-19 restrictions on May 25, Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Michael Patterson said travel restrictions would be the last measures lifted.

“This is because right now travel into Nunavut from outside of the territory represents the highest risk,” Patterson said on Thursday.

The plan, called Nunavut’s Path, states border restrictions would stay in place until “we have more information about effective therapies and/or a vaccine for COVID-19.”

That would also include the isolation hubs, Patterson said on Monday.

But on Thursday, Patterson clarified that there are several conditions that could be met to have border restrictions lifted. Those include development of a vaccine or treatment for COVID-19, indication that COVID-19 is under control in neighbouring jurisdictions through a decrease in cases and minimal community transmission, and sustainable and ongoing diagnostic capacity in every Nunavut community.

“Unfortunately, many of these factors are outside of our control, but we will continue to monitor the evolving global situation. As always, our decisions surrounding the border measures will be guided by evidence and will be designed to protect and preserve the health and safety of Nunavummiut throughout this global pandemic,” Patterson said.

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(34) Comments:

  1. Posted by John on

    Also get tested before they fly up?

    • Posted by Manapik on

      And criminal record check?

      • Posted by Alan Klie on

        Why would a construction worker need a criminal record check and why do we need construction workers without criminal records? Do you really care if someone has a 20-year old drinking and driving conviction?

        • Posted by Fern on

          Maybe not a 20 year c record but maybe a 5 year c record for abuse.. Inappropriate behaviour toward a child… Lots of legit reasons for criminal record checks.

          • Posted by Just Saying, You Know on

            Given the astronomical crime rate in Nunavut, wouldn’t it make more sense to require criminal record checks of Nunavummiut flying south? You know for inappropriate behaviour toward a child (which seems to be something of a hobby in Nunavut). Lots of legit reasons to do a criminal record check.

            Just saying, you know? 😉

          • Posted by Fern – Are You Part of the Solution or the Problem? on

            You know what Fern, why don’t you worry about the home-grown Nunavut criminals, of which there are so many!

            Perversion with children is such a thing here – what are you doing about it?

          • Posted by Darek B on

            I was working with a guy from Newfoundland and he mentioned why he was in the prairies for work… he said that “Newfoundlanders finished all their work out East and he was just helping out so we could catch up”.

            When there was a rush to Alberta and Northern Saskatchewan over the last 20 years, it was called a boom.

            Consider it a boom in Nunavut when there is too much work for the local workforce to get done, and everyone coming up is there just to help out so you can “catch up with your projects too.”

      • Posted by INUK on

        Why , their coming to built houses, not work at the daycare , bank or become cops

      • Posted by Why? on

        Why? Their employer would have done such a check as part of the hiring process. These people, overwhelmingly, don’t work for the GN.

        Even if they have a criminal record, there is no way to keep anyone away, so it would be a waste of time and effort.

        Would you support medical travellers and Nunavut students studying in other parts of Canada being screened for criminal records before they are allowed entry into another province or territory?

        Yeah, didn’t think so.

        • Posted by Test on

          Test for virus before flying up here?

          • Posted by Why on

            Why, they are doing the quarantine.

            • Posted by Why? Because! on

              Why? Because 80% of people infected show little to no symptoms that’s why, how do they know if they have Covid-19? From the questionnaire? A guess after quarantine?
              With Quebec having the highest cases in Canada and Ontario next, these guys coming up here should be tested, better safe then sorry.

              • Posted by Facts Matter on

                After 2 weeks in isolation, even if the person had been infected with the virus, they would have shed nearly all of it to the point they would no longer be contagious.

                That is the whole point of quarantine.

              • Posted by Test Away on

                Test all you want, but first do some reading on the test reliability. The tests seem to running only 65 – 80% sensitivity in real-world applications. Ideally we would both quarantine and test, but that will be very burdensome on the system.

                Many returning Nunavummiut are coming from Ontario and Quebec and they weren’t tested. Perhaps they should have been, but the system is treating all with equal rigour.

                I would fully support testing and quarantining returning Nunavummiut who have been in higher-risk environments such as hospitals.

  2. Posted by southerner on

    how is a construction worker from the south any different from a mine worker from the south that doesnt have to self isolate before coming to the same TERRITORY. da

    • Posted by More Isolated on

      The miners are much much more isolated. The construction workers mingle in town, live in hotels, go to stores, etc.

      The mine workers are taken straight to site bypassing the airport lobby (supposedly), live in residence isolated from others, and don’t have the opportunity to ‘go to town’, go shopping and mingle with others, etc

    • Posted by It’s “duh” on

      The mines, except for Meliadine, are distant from the closest communities, workers are flown directly to site and out again, local people aren’t interacting with the workers, and the workers don’t go into the communities or use local facilities. There’s no risk of transmission.

  3. Posted by Tagak Curley on

    The province known with most covid-19 infections rate provides most of the Southern mine labour force. That’s one likely route this decease will enter into Nunavut if Southern screening measures are weaken. Fourteen days isolation will not apply for over three thousand workers at max labour force.

    • Posted by Carl on

      During the summer months with construction season, spikes seem to happen in all kinds a diseases, makes me nervous with Covid-19 if this will be the same,

      I do hope testing will be done also to help keep this virus out of Nunavut.

      • Posted by Facts Matter on

        Actually, nearly all contagious diseases spread more frequently in colder months when people spend the majority of the time indoors.

        But nice try blaming every preventable health problem in Nunavut on transient workers.

        • Posted by Real facts on

          Sorry to burst your bubble but most diseases are brought into Nunavut and during high traffic periods with people coming into Nunavut that is when spikes happen, mostly in the spring and summer months.
          Syphilis was a major problem in certain places and other infections that were introduced in the summer.
          I don’t mean to offend you but with a huge influx of people coming in some not all bring things with them.

          • Posted by Facts Matter on

            I’m sorry but you don’t have a clue what you are talking about.

            Syphilis, Tuberculosis, RSV and a host of others are rampant in Nunavut, yet are rare if not eradicated in the south.

            These may have been brought from the south *decades ago*, but remain an issue here as they are perpetually recirculated within the community, not reintroduced from the south where almost nobody ever contracts them.

            • Posted by Real facts on

              I’m sorry but again you are wrong, syphilis has been making a comeback in the south at certain places, also STD rates increase in the summer months. These spikes happen each year not decades.
              Yes the rates are a lot lower in the south as a whole but certain groups are not all clean and respectful. Every group has a bad apple.

  4. Posted by Sam on

    Question,if southern construction workers quarantine for two weeks,before arriving in Nunavut,and the gn pays all the bills plus wages for them,are these construction workers on a 4 weeks in 4 weeks out rotation,or do they have to spend 2 weeks in a hotel everytime, they return.or do they stay for months

    • Posted by Facts Matter on

      The GN does not pay wages for individuals in quarantine. If the individual is a GN employee and allowed to leave Nunavut for essential duty travel or if under special circumstances, a GN employee is allowed to work from quarantine, are the only 2 cases where the GN would pay its own employees in quarantine. Otherwise, a GN employee in quarantine must use approved leave such as annual leave.

      Construction workers, as described in this story, are not GN employees but are employees of or are contracted to, the company completing the project in question.

  5. Posted by Colin on

    Why does Nunavut even need to import construction workers? Answer: GN has failed to deliver the necessary education, skills and work ethic to Inuit youth. That’s also why there’s such a low proportion of Inuit working at the mines.

    • Posted by Facts Matter on

      I once spent a couple of hours on a flight talking to a recruiter who worked for one of the Nunavut mining companies. He explained his exasperation with trying to find Inuit workers who had a Grade 12 education AND a clean Criminal Record Check, both of which were required to work in any mine in the North. He told me of perfect candidates whom he wished he could hire but could not because they either had convictions or had never completed a Grade 12 / GED.

      When I asked why a clean CRC was required to work in a mine, he informed me that because of the isolated location of the mines, it was a safety and liability issue.

      • Posted by This! This is One of the Biggest Problems on

        Yes, yes, yes! The proportion of the population with criminal records is so high here, and it has been a constant burden to our recruiting efforts too. It affects promotions and movements within our organization also. Getting waivers for those with criminal records is time-consuming and not guaranteed- frankly not worth the effort when you aren’t sure you’ll get it, and you can get another candidate easily enough.

        Many of the records that we deal with are not just for stupid mischief at age 15 or something either. The proportion of the criminal records that are for quite serious felonies or else crimes with violence are high. This is a career killing blot anywhere.

        • Posted by Heather on

          You do sound a bit sarcastic but if there is any truth to your claim even if it has some little bit of truth to it then why is their so much crime? Something is not right and why is it that way?

          • Posted by No Sarcasm Here on

            There is no sarcasm in my comment at all, it was meant to be read seriously.

            I am not a criminologist or a sociologist, nor do I know full details, which is as it should be. Most of the cases that I know of are all related to domestic violence or sex crimes of one variety or another, often interrelated

        • Posted by David on

          Many of the records that we deal with are not just for stupid mischief at age 15 or something either.
          They can’t be. All youth records are sealed with you turn 18.

    • Posted by What Are So Many Doing Wrong? on

      Why is it the GN’s job to ‘deliver’ a work ethic?

      The GN has done a fantabulous job of providing training programs and funding for anyone with gumption. If you are beneficiary you can ride a free-education train as far as you are want or are capable of going. There are very few opportunities like that in this country. The GN has more than fulfilled its obligation in that regard.

      Work ethic? Well, we’d better hold the mirror up to Nunavut society and ask ourselves that. Seems to me that developing a work ethic in our population is the job of the families. So, that brings up the question, why are we raising so many generational welfare recipients instead of those with the work-ethic and gumption to seize the many opportunities available? What have so many parents and families done wrong?

      • Posted by Facts on

        As a beneficiary there is no such thing as a free education train, the funding is the same as anyone applying in Nunavut.
        You might work for the GN so I can assume where your comments come from,
        The GN in no way has done a fabulous job in this regard as you stated, there are a lot of improvements needed, a review and changes need to be done.
        Your comments are part of the problem brushing this as something that is already perfect and working fabulously when that is not the case.

  6. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    I applaud the continuation of the 14 day isolation policy.
    Yes it will be expensive for the GN.
    Yes it will be expensive for private companies.
    Yes it will be inconvenient for the workers.
    Yes there is still a chance that someone will “cheat” in isolation and end up bringing Covid-19 to a community.
    But until there are effective treatments, and/or until there is a vaccine this is necessary.
    No one wants Covid-19 loose in a northern community, the results could be devastating.
    Right now Quebec and Ontario have the most cases of Covid-19, followed by Alberta. Until the cases in these provinces approach zero for a sustained period of time (months not days) I cannot see the GN policy changing, nor do I think it should.
    Expensive, yes. Inconvenient, yes. Both options are better than hundreds, or even thousands of dead bodies in Nunavut.

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