Keep schools closed, teachers home, says Nunavut Association of Municipalities

“Our communities don’t want schools to reopen until September”

A resolution passed on April 14 by the Nunavut Association of Municipalities says “NAM requests the Government of Nunavut to not order teachers back to Nunavut or to work at this time and that Nunavut schools not be re-opened until the beginning of the school year.” (File photo)

By Jane George

Nunavut schools should stay closed until September, and teachers now outside the territory should stay there, says the Nunavut Association of Municipalities in a news release.

At a special board meeting held yesterday, NAM board members passed a motion asking the Government of Nunavut “to not order teachers back to Nunavut or to work at this time and that Nunavut schools not be re-opened until the beginning of the school year.”

The NAM board said it passed the resolution to support the decision by Nunavut’s chief public health officer to close the schools and “clarify the wishes of the mayors of Nunavut’s municipalities.”

The NAM sent the resolution to Nunavut MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq, Premier Joe Savikataaq, Education Minister David Joanasie and John Fanjoy, president of the Nunavut Teachers’ Association.

“Although the NAM executive board has made it very clear that our communities don’t want schools to reopen until September due to the COVID-19 threat, we also wanted to point out that we support teachers throughout Nunavut and we look forward to them returning when it is safe to do so,” the news release said.

“Teachers wanting to return to Nunavut as residents are required to abide by the Government of Nunavut’s mandatory 14-day quarantine and we support that process.”

In its release, the NAM repeated Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s advice to Canadians, that they “stay home, only go outside when necessary and stay two metres apart.”

“NAM supports the measures announced by the authorities and in accordance with the directives announced, encourages all Nunavummiut to comply and do their part to maintain social and physical distancing, staying at home and keeping their communities safe and well,” the NAM release said.

To limit the possible spread of COVID-19, schools in Nunavut, which shut on March 17, were initially to remain closed to students until April 7, but that date was pushed back to April 21.

Then, on April 7, the GN asked out-of-territory teachers to return by April 21—a decision that continues to be debated by many.

According to John Fanjoy, the Nunavut Teachers’ Association president, “there are currently around 20 teachers in the GN’s isolation sites, and more teachers who are making travel arrangements to return, but due to staggered flight schedules in the south and provincial restrictions are delayed.”

Fanjoy said there are also teachers who have asked to work remotely and are waiting for a response from their regional school operations.

“I made every attempt to make travel plans to try to return as per the mandate of April 7. However, I am on a regional lockdown and cannot even leave my area. I have been guided and supported by the NTA to request working with my students remotely,” a teacher told Nunatsiaq News on Tuesday night, adding that the NAM motion encouraged her.

Meanwhile, an online petition, addressed to Nunavut’s mayors and councillors, continues to gather support.

The petition says signatories are disappointed by the GN’s decision to call back teachers who were outside the territory when its borders were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the petition was launched on April 10, it has garnered more than 2,500 signatories and is now seeking 5,000.

The decision to bring the teachers back has also been criticized by the NTA, which says the GN should close the territory’s schools for the rest of the school year in response to COVID-19.

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(45) Comments:

  1. Posted by Ian on

    All mayor’s agree or is it one very vocal mayor leading the charge to undermine the experts based on his emotions as well as trying to take every opportunity to be highlighted in the media and be involved in decisions that are beyond his pay grade? Do the councillors still owe money to the city? What happened to that very important priority?

    • Posted by iWonder on

      What “experts” are you referring too and what have they said on this issue? Please refer us to their work.
      This position by the municipalities is clearly the most sensible one as it seeks to mitigate an unnecessary risk that offers a minimal return. If anything the decision to bring back the teachers seems like one motivated by “emotion”, I certainly can’t see anything rational behind it. But by all means, feel free to enlighten us.

      • Posted by Ian on

        The Government has been consulting with the CPHO through the entire pandemic. You don’t think they consulted with him before making this decision? Did NAM consult with the CPHO? Have they ever even had a conversation with the guy? No because they wouldn’t get the airtime. merely suggestion makers

        • Posted by iWonder on

          Ian, on March 23rd our CPHO said the following about travel into Nunavut, “Only Nunavut residents and critical workers will be allowed into the territory.”
          If a teacher is a resident and wants to return, that is one thing. Forcing teachers to return is another. Are teachers considered essential workers? No, they are not. If the CPHO is in support of this policy he has not proven that this is a safe policy, only that he is a hypocrite whose ability to make decisions in the interests on the people of Nunavut has been compromised by politics. He has, then, lost his moral authority and has no claim to public trust. His opinion doesn’t change the reality that this decision creates an unnecessary risk on our communities and offers very little to no reward in return. It is, in fact, a perfect example of poor governance.
          I applaud the Municipalities for speaking up and speaking sensibly on this issue. It is heartening to see someone is echoing the interests of our communities rather than playing petty political games.

          • Posted by VERY well said on

            VERY well said. Thank you for this comment – I was about to comment the same. I cannot believe people are still arguing that it makes sense to force people to travel and possibly spread this virus. It is a pandemic. Everyone needs to stay put when possible.
            Thank you.

          • Posted by ian on

            To accuse the CHPO of playing petty political games is grossly negligent when he and the government have done such an amazing job throughout this pandemic. I suspect most don’t believe he has done anything to “ruin a career over”

            • Posted by iWonder on

              We will see how “amazing” a job is being done when the coronavirus actually arrives. For now we are fortunate. Either way, directly contradicting his own policy on travel without offering any explanation is the real negligence here.

              • Posted by janice newlove on

                As a mother of a teacher (a teacher who stayed isolated in a northern community due to the recommendations), thank goodness sensibility and responsibility took precedence. The decision to not force teachers to return to the North was the right decision to protect everyone.

                • Posted by Ilisapirjuaq on

                  What North are you referring to? Where did you get this information that teachers were Not going to be forced to return to Nunavut? The announcement that schools will not reopen this school year says that it is now even more important for teachers to come back to work to prepare learning packages for students!

              • Posted by Ian on

                The city needs to follow the lead of the mayor of Yellowknife . Stick to your lane and worry about municipal programs and services and leave the other decisions to the big guys. Gets your ducks in order before you start focusing on other people’s ducks. All this time worrying about Government of Nunavut when they should be focused on municipal issues. Who’s filling the gap?

          • Posted by josywales on

            Municipalities have every right to comment, direct or advise the GN. Did some people forget Democracy starts at the people level, not the top? At least they are listening to the people that elect them. Let me see GN listen to their own people.

          • Posted by Residents on

            All teachers would necessarily be residents of Nunavut – you have to live in Nunavut to teach. That means they would return under the residents category, not the critical workers category.

            No one can constitutionally deny entry to residents. Residents, who are also teachers, can be compelled by their employer to return. Everyone agrees it is a pointless move by Education over a few weeks of class, but if they quarantine as required there is no basis to say they shouldn’t return, or that Education, as dumb as it is, is not legally entitled order their return. Again, a dumb decision, but everyone knows their employers don’t always behave rationally.

            • Posted by Start the Letter Writing on

              All true, but it would seem to fly directly in the face of the requirement to limit all non-essential travel. These are non-essential workers, who are putting their safety, and the safety of others, at risk because the GN HR department doesn’t have its head screwed on right. Better write Kolola immediately I’d think.

          • Posted by what say you on

            what say you (and others worried about the “risk” these teachers bring) about the HUNDREDS of critical AND NON-CRITICAL staff who are exempt from the GN’s 14 day southern isolation period before flying to Nunavut?????? Where are all these hundreds of people going and working? Do we even know? And how are teachers (who have gone into 14 day quarantine in hotels) any risk compared with these hundreds who have NO isolation requirement.

            Give your heads a shake!

            • Posted by Socializing on

              Yup, exactly the point. Folks are just being verbally asked questions, and we all know that not everyone will be fully truthful if it is the difference between working or not.

              I’m looking forward to the stories of the quarantine hotels making it into these pages. I’ve heard that the quarantine in some hotels is not that strictly enforced and that there has been socializing. We’ll see what happens.

    • Posted by Sean Macintosh on

      I noticed that you did not mention that the GN is going against their own policy of returning essential workers to Nunavut.

  2. Posted by Ilisapirjuak on

    Doesn’t anyone remember what happened in Arviat in 1991 when E. coli arrived?! People died and many others got health problems that continue to affect them and cost Nunavut money. Don’t people remember how many Inuit died, lost relatives, or suffered from polio and TB when those diseases arrived in the north? Does the GN really want to risk the lives of Nunavummiut, especially our elders, by risking bringing the covid19 virus to Nunavut?

    The measures the Government of Nunavut has been taking to keep covid19 out of Nunavut, made me proud of the GN for taking strong action to protect Nunavummiut!

    But now I am distressed to learn that the Government of Nunavut itself wants to set those protective measures aside to bring over 90 teachers back into Nunavut!! Even people who have been in quarantine can be silent carriers of the covid19 virus. Will the returning teachers be tested for the virus? I was also shocked to hear how few people in Nunavut have been tested for the covid19 virus!! Without a very extensive testing program, Nunavut will be unable to track and manage a covid19 outbreak if it occurs. I do not think Nunavut is yet as prepared as it needs to be to fight this disease if it gets into any Nunavut community.

    Bringing back teachers is not only risky, it is unnecessary. I do not believe those teachers need to be physically in Nunavut in order to provide support to their students. Nunavut schools maintain contact with schools, educators, suppliers of educational resources, and others from other parts of Canada as well as within Nunavut so I know we have enough technology to maintain connections with Nunavut teachers who are not physically present in Nunavut right now. School staff who are in Nunavut can make sure that the students and parents who want learning materials can get them.

    Please listen to all the Nunavummiut who believe that getting teachers back into Nunavut in April will unnecessarily risk the lives and health of Nunavummiut!

    • Posted by hundreds of workers not isolated before return on

      these teachers are the same as medical travellers returning. Should Inuit on medical also not be allowed home to spread the virus????

      over 300 workers have been let into the territory without that teacher and medical travel isolation peroid. Not only GN workers too, stores, companies or anyone who apply can bypass isolation.

      You are suggesting teachers pose more of a risk than anyone else, which isn’t fair. or true.

  3. Posted by School Year Almost Over By When Teachers Return on

    Isolation hotels have a 3 week waiting list. Add another 2 weeks of quarantine and you’re looking at 5 weeks = May 21. School year in most communities ends June 5 to 12. Do we bring these people back for 3 weeks?

  4. Posted by Covid 19 Facts from Europe and US on

    up to 30% to 70% of people have no symptoms (scientists still don’t know why).
    some people are contagious for 37 days with no symptoms.
    30% of tests give false negative.
    an infected teacher with no symptoms who prepares work packages that parents pick up can infect entire families and spread through communities.

    • Posted by Equally Concerned on

      An infected anyone, teacher, returning medical traveller, returning student or any other type of Nunavumiut are equal threats.

      i don’t why there is all of this focus on the teachers. I would be equally, or more, concerned by returning medical travellers who been around hospitals.

      • Posted by No Moniker on

        To Equally Concerned; because it is an additional and unnecessary risk that offers no tangible benefit. Yes other travelers are a risk too, but why add to the overall risk for no obvious or justifiable reason?

  5. Posted by John K on

    We just gotta stick it to them transient southerners eh? That’s what I’m beginning to think this is ultimately about. Photocopies? Give me a break. They just want those southerners who are “taking jobs” to be here. Just because.

    They come here to help us. Whether they come for the money or not their work is a benefit to us. We’re being ungrateful.

    • Posted by James on

      Bingo…spot on a John K. Except for the ungrateful comment; I think it’s effectively mitigated. Southerns should be equally grateful for the opportunity to live and work in a place as magnificent as Nunavut.

  6. Posted by Iglu on

    this concern of NAM makes sense, however, can NAM maybe do something about all the residents and stores in the various communities who are not playing by the rules, and social distancing, etc?

    • Posted by Paul Murphy on

      Excactly. Of course they can but won’t. Not enough political benefit. And they aren’t temporaries as one alleged leader puts it.

  7. Posted by parent on

    Teachers that live in Nunavut and have roots should be allowed to come back.
    Teachers that come up to work and then go BACK HOME should not be forced to return here. People need to be HOME.
    How is it fair to demand someone to come up, live in a 1 bedroom apartment and be alone. Or house share as some teachers do. Let them stay with their families.
    The school year is a total loss. Teachers can work from home south and have norther staff do the photo copying ect…..

    • Posted by James on

      No demand was placed on teachers to come to Nunavut. They were enticed by larger than otherwise available teacher salaries. They knew the caveats, or at a minimum, should have reasonably identified them.

      • Posted by In Limbo on

        In all fairness, I don’t think COVID-19 was a caveat anyone factored into their decision to teach in Nunavut. But you are correct in that it is a privilege to live and work here with the Inuit in their beautiful territory.

  8. Posted by Passing Grades? on

    Students want to know what is happening to their grades. Are they going to pass to the next grade? Do they have to repeat part of the year? Students are concerned and being left in the dark.

    • Posted by Another brick on

      Were they passing before the break? Then my guess, despite missing half of the content area for grades 10-12, or at 1/4 for grades k to 9, they will be passed. We would have passed the k to 9 anyway, so actually not having school as compared to not doing the schooling you had won’t make a difference.

      • Posted by Social Promotion on

        Did you forget that GN does social promotion anyway? no one fails……

        • Posted by Literacy on

          Yes, I’ve known high school graduates, in the past, that have needed adult literacy tutoring in order to get a basic job.

  9. Posted by Dibbs in on

    So, there are some awkward community issues no one at NAM mentioned, and it speaks to the value communities place on education, because 90 percent of the teachers remained in their towns. Does anyone talk about continuing education? Or helping children still keep learning at home? Is anyone doing home education plans? Very very few. If the parents dont really care if there is any learning, what is the point of bringing back the outside teachers. Those that stayed could handle it, heck most of the time the schools are not at full capacity anyway so how would we notice?

    But the really hard part is watching other districts trying to provide support for their students and knowing here in Nunavut, nobody cares and noone is asking.

    I am hoping all those who have not supported southern education are now taking their kids on the land and speaking only the language of home outside and doing all the things they said they wanted to all the times the kids did not come to school. Here is your chance. Now its your responsibility to save a generation. Dibbs out.
    Except in reality, those 90 percent are waiting to help however they can, because that is what we all do best, hope for change.

  10. Posted by Anonymous on

    What about the teachers that are homeowners in Nunavut?
    It’s not easy is it?
    Nunavut is home to some or most teachers

  11. Posted by Iara on

    90 or so teachers are blamed for flying south to be with their families, and so Education officials want to be able to bully them into returning to Nunavut regardless of safety issues or the fact that our health care has been undermined by years worth of cutbacks and self defeating austerity measures forced on provinces and territories by federal governments. Our health care system in the north is even more fragile than it is for southerners. And yet while they are aware of all this, our leaders are willing to will risk “community spread” in order to demonstrate their power and authority to bully teachers, and Nunavumiut as well, with their bad leadership and poor decisions. They are obviously not paying attention to what the rest of Canada is doing which is evidence-based decision making and cancelling the school year. We must remember this poor leadership next election.

    • Posted by Anonymous on

      Maybe those 90 teachers who left town after the travel advisories were already in place should not be receiving full pay while they are out of province! This children should have had some planning and dropped off to their homes so that they could still be learning! This is going to have drastic issues for some of these children’s lives

      • Posted by No Merit on

        Except that no one left after the travel advisories were in place, so this argument is without merit.

      • Posted by Write Joansie on

        You’d better write Joansie then. He is responsible for the sudden suspension of school with no notice and no plan in place.

        The weakness of those we’ve chosen as leaders is certainly shining through in this crisis. It will help us decide who needs replacing at election time.

        • Posted by Limited Options on

          It would help us decide on better leaders in a more perfect world, but in reality the options are never much better. We are stuck with this level of leadership as long as we settle for uneducated and inexperienced people, which is sadly the norm.

      • Posted by Tundra Buggy on

        There has been almost zero communication to teachers from principals. The RSOs seem to have vanished as I’ve heard that some principals haven’t been given any direction from Executive Directors or superintendents. This is ridiculous. Here it is Friday and teachers are supposed to be returning to work on Tuesday and no direction has been provided for what that is to look like, what we’re expected to do, etc. For sure I can make up work for students to take home but some direction from admin and my employer would be nice…

        • Posted by Failure of Leadership on

          Don’t hold your breath, but take solace in knowing that you are not alone.

          Many departments are in a state of paralysis, and none of our ‘leaders’ are willing to make a decision.

          You can be sure that I will remember this when it is time to decide whether they keep their jobs.

  12. Posted by MLAs not the only elected representatives on

    mayors are telling MLAs what the people want. its a reminder to MLAs (especially cabinet) they are not the only elected representatives and the mayors are listening to the people. going to be new MLAs over this next election

  13. Posted by Ian on

    Have the councillors paid back the money they owe? That was the big public priority last week? People have too much time in their hands and skewed priorities when they have a lot of work to do. Stop trying to make a name for yourself and focus on your job.

  14. Posted by all in on

    more nonsense and fear…

    so it was a motion of the Executive, or a special meeting of all members? The news release and this story are conflicting.

    also, NU borders ARE NOT CLOSED to people who reside here (i.e. teachers who work and live here)

    residents returning (i.e. teachers who live and work here) CAN STAY HOME once they return.

    this is xenophobic and nonsensical. Great to see municipalities weighing in on the Depts of education and health here. What’s next? Are the DEAs going to start advising Hamlets on water and sewage delivery?

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