As COVID-19 cases rise, Arviat MLA presses premier on status of outside aid

“We are frustrated and we are fatigued. But we are still fighting,” John Main says

Premier Joe Savikataaq addresses John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, during question period on Feb. 22, the first day of the legislative assembly’s winter sitting. Main, forced to stay in Arviat due to travel restrictions will be participating in the 17-day sitting remotely. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By Dustin Patar

It has been more than 100 days since Arviat’s first case of COVID-19 and, despite a brief period in January with no known cases in the community, months living under lockdown have taken their toll, one of the area’s members of the legislative assembly says.

“We are frustrated and we are fatigued,” said John Main, MLA for Arviat North-Whale Cove, on the first day of the legislature’s winter sitting Monday.

“But, we are still fighting.”

His remarks, delivered via Zoom because of Arviat’s travel restrictions, came hours after the territorial government announced 12 more cases in the already-beleaguered Kivalliq community, bringing the total number of infections to 33.

While Main thanked the various levels of government, organizations, private companies and Nunavummiut who have helped his community, his questions to Premier Joe Savikataaq focused on who’s responsible for handling the COVID-19 outbreak. He questioned the premier about who has helped, and similarly, who hasn’t.

Savikataaq responded by saying that other than the actual health issues surrounding COVID-19, which are handled by the Department of Health, the Department of Executive and Intergovernmental Affairs has a secretariat that is responsible for the overall response to COVID-19 within the government, including business and communications issues.

He also added that the secretariat is responsible for securing funds from the federal government.

Following that, Main asked what resources the Government of Nunavut had accessed in regards to the outbreak in Arviat.

Savikataaq listed a number of groups in his response, including the Government of Canada, the Nunavut government, Nunavut Tunngavik Inc., the Kivalliq Inuit Association, Agnico Eagle, the Food Bank of Canada and the Canadian Red Cross. He said these groups had provided resources for things like food and on-the-land activities.

Savikataaq also took the time to thank the Hamlet of Arviat for its continued work in fighting the outbreak.

While Main also expressed his gratitude towards the hamlet and residents of Arviat for their continued work, he commented that something was lacking.

Main’s final question to Savikataaq was whether the Government of Nunavut will be requesting on-the-ground help from the federal government or Canadian armed forces.

Main pointed to a recent decision to send the armed forces to the Cross Lake First Nation in Manitoba this week. Almost 200 people are sick with COVID-19 in that community, according to media reports, and the armed forces are there to provide wellness checks and establish alternative options for people who need to isolate.

Savikataaq responded by saying the Canadian Red Cross provided medical aid to the community during the initial outbreak last fall, when cases topped 100.

“I wondered if the armed forces would go to Arviat,” he said about that time.

But, said Savikitaaq, that decision rests with the territory’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, and to date, he has not made such a request.

While Main had used up his allotment of questions following that response, he had indicated during his opening statements that he had many questions regarding the ongoing COVID-19 situation.

“I think it would help not just the people of Arviat, but everybody in Nunavut if we talk about COVID-19,” said Main.

The winter sitting of the legislature began on Feb. 22 and will continue until March 16.

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(8) Comments:

  1. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    Employment Position Available – Arviat, NU
    Coronavirus Enforcement Officer
    .
    Previous experience herding cats would be an asset.

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  2. Posted by Another Planet on

    Main lives on another planet. Do you really think the Premier will answer your question about bringing in the Military?
    .
    The Premier can at any time request the aid of the Military under the National Defence Act but he says it is up to Dr. Patterson? An unelected official? Way to pass the buck Joe. How about you lead?
    .
    The GN will avoid this at all costs John. Calling in the military suggests failure. It highlights slow vaccination. No enforcement. Failure to communicate. Remember the Military did a report up highlighting the systematic negligence of the Ontario Government’s oversight of long term care homes? Imagine what they’ll say when the find the poor state of things in Nunavut our leaders take great pains to keep quiet.
    .
    We are vaccinating like 40 people a day for goodness sake while NWT and Yukon do over 1000!
    .
    No, they don’t want to pay and they don’t want the bad press. They also can’t risk the public perception of Southern invasion! I mean you can’t get any more ‘colonial’ than having Ottawa send in the troops to take over poor management.
    .
    Give your head a shake John or at least be overtly critical of the Premier if that is what you intend by asking these questions.

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  3. Posted by Thinking.. on

    It’s been almost a Year since first Lockdown began March 2020 Nunavut still Unprepared.

  4. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Yes the GN Chief medical officer and Premier has done a very poor job in controlling the virus in Arviat. The measures were too soft and forgiving. same goes for the southern hubs. Rankin and Whale Cove nipped it in the bud pretty quickly . It could have gone very ugly in Rankin being the central hub. Designated people ensured that people stayed quarantined in their houses through surveillance. It worked.

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    • Posted by Respect Your Elders on

      People of Arviat ..Listen Please
      Other communities in Nunavut
      Have the same measures as you
      Same Premier and Same Dr.Patterson
      You are in the Same Territory
      You are Citizens of Canada
      The difference is that there are People in Arviat who Think they are a class above every one in Canada because They will not
      Listen!The vaccines are there for you in Arviat but Actually you believe that You don’t Need them.
      Because even though you got the Virus you are not sick and no symptoms so No big deal!
      Going to Northern Store positive!!!
      You need to go out on the land
      Then so you won’t infect children and your elders
      And who ever else that didn’t get the vaccine! Now!
      The ones that don’t love Arviat and the the good people leave please!
      All Public Health and the premier and Dr.Patterson’s group all GN staff has been
      Helping you!
      So go to the Land before other people in the community die!

    • Posted by ilisapirjuaq on

      It is upsetting to hear so many negative comments about Arviat. As a community we have been working hard to contain the virus and we will continue to do so. In contrast to the three other Nunavut communities which had covid-19 cases, by the time covid-19 was confirmed in Arviat, it had spread widely and asymptomatically within the community. In the other three communities the infected people could be confined to a few houses until all those residents tested negative so Covid-19 did not spread throughout the communities. Then, in January we thought we were free of the virus, and it was only because follow-up testing continued that it was discovered that the virus is still here. Fortunately it was discovered before it could spread widely throughout the community again. We have seen fewer increases per day in January and February compared to double digit increases of covid-19 cases in November and December. Over half of Arviat’s population is under 18 and not eligible to be vaccinated yet, and also most likely to be infected without showing any symptoms – but able to spread the virus! Unlike other Nunavut communities, Arviat children have not been able to go to school for almost 4 months now. It is challenging to keep children engaged and positive when they can’t see their friends or release their physical energy through sports or on the playground. Despite this, there are many families in Arviat who have lots of children but who have had no covid-19. MOST ARVIAMMIUT HAVE BEEN FOLLOWING THE RULES AND RESTRICTIONS CONSISTENTLY AND THEY DESERVE A LOT OF RESPECT AND CREDIT FOR THEIR EFFORTS.

  5. Posted by Toonik’s Grandfather on

    The bottom line goes to few people of Arviat, no discipline. Six other communities are listening to Dr. Patterson’s advice. Jo Jo doing great job in community leadership.

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