Nunavut mayors to discuss GN’s decision to recall teachers from outside territory

“Right now, we have zero cases and we want it to stay that way”

Kenny Bell, who is the mayor of Iqaluit and president of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, will seek a motion at a special NAM board meeting on Tuesday to demand that Nunavut keep its schools closed and that any teachers outside the territory stay there until the pandemic is over. (Photo by Jane George)

By Jane George

The Government of Nunavut’s decision to recall teachers now outside the territory is the subject of an emergency board meeting of the Nunavut Association of Municipalities, slated for Tuesday, April 14.

NAM President Kenny Bell, who is also the mayor of Iqaluit, says that he will be looking for a motion to demand that schools remain closed and that any teachers who have left Nunavut should stay out of the territory until the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

“There is no reason to be putting our kids and our teachers at further risk right now, we have zero cases and we want it to stay that way,” Bell said in an social media post.

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

On April 7, the GN asked out-of-territory teachers to return by April 21.

An online petition, addressed to Nunavut’s mayors and councillors, is also critical of this decision.

Since the petition was launched on April 10, it has garnered more than 1,900 of the 2,500 signatures it is seeking.

The petition says the 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.

“The residents of Nunavut are lucky for not having had the virus arrive. If the virus arrives, it will have [a] devastating impact on the residents,” says the petition.

The petition calls for the 85 teachers outside the territory not to return until the pandemic is over.

Many signatories, like Joe Rodrigues, Angela Dupuis and Eena Kullualu, added their own points to the petition:

  • “I don’t think we should be putting the teachers at risk by asking them all to return, having to go to the airports again where there is more likelihood of contracting COVID-19, after having already isolated for two weeks in the South,” Rodrigues said.
  • “After eight years of nursing in Nunavut, the thought of COVID spreading across Nunavut both breaks my heart and completely terrified me,” Dupuis said. “Absolutely every measure must be taken to keep it out. This includes not demanding or allowing teachers to return.”
  • “There are not enough front line workers (nurses, doctors or any kind of doctors) for this disease,” Kullualu said.

The decision to bring the teachers back has also come under criticism from the Nunavut Teachers Association, which says the GN should close the territory’s schools for the rest of the school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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(42) Comments:

  1. Posted by 14 Days Quarantine is good enough for educators & all NU residents on

    The staff from schools should return to their communities. They are/will be doing the 14 days quarantine that is supervised by the GN.
    All of this is the same quarantine that people on medical travel need to undergo before being allowed to fly to communities. This is rue for other NU residents returning to the territory.
    Why not target medical travellers retuning to their communities. Teachers are not more hazardous that anyone else.
    No one is carrying on about not letting medical travellers back after their quarantine.
    And hey: it’s not that the bulk of residents in all communities have been doing frequent hand washing, staying 2m apart and not socializing. This is what the real focus of the territory and communities needs to be. Stop worrying about the teachers- they are not the problem.
    I wonder if this is a bunch of employees school employees don’t want to pay for flights to the north when the school year might be shutdown in a months time. If you have someone in the south to care for, such as an elderly parent get approval from your RSO for leave and stay south.

    • Posted by Questionable Point of View on

      Your point of view is very questionable here – some residents are wanting to go home. Okay, but some teachers are not wanting to fly back due to concerns with the pandemic occurring around the entire world. Why force over 90 teachers back who may be infected or carrying this virus? Why forced these people back to a place with limited healthcare and limited resources? If this virus makes it up there, the less people there, the better. Nunavut is currently safe with no reported cases. This needs to stay this way. The least amount of people travelling into the territory should be the goal. We need to keep Nunavut safe.

  2. Posted by on

    I motion : petition to teacher not to come back to Nunavut for sale of our ppl

  3. Posted by Ignorant Masses on

    The Municipalities are out of their jurisdiction with this nonsense and passing illegal bylaws. It is nothing but a plot to put pressure on the Department of Health to make decisions based on emotion rather than science. Giving into the masses here (or rather, the loudest and most ignorant in society as opposed to the majority) should be avoided.

    If 14 days is safe enough for students and medical travelers who have flown back this week, it applies to teachers as well.

    That said, the decision by Education to bring back teachers is pointless and expensive. Why should the GN incur massive expenses to facilitate this? 14 days in quarantine with 85 people, 85 rooms, 3 meals a day, and 24/hr security isn’t cheap. For what? 3-4 weeks of school at most, if at all? Give them the choice to return or not, and either way, work from home.

    If people are this upset about 85 teachers returning, wait until the next few weeks when building season is gearing up.

    • Posted by Housing Guy on

      Very good comment about construction season. There’s going to some serious debate about whether to build more housing or keep all the southern contractors out this summer. Some projects likely had materials delivered on the last sealift in 2019. Let’s see what happens when the decision involves a tangible benefit to local Inuit; more housing. The building season is short. Postponing it means foregoing it.

    • Posted by Science you say? on

      Strange that you would reference”decisions based on emotion rather than science” when talking about the brainless decision to bring these teachers back into our communities. Where is the so called science that says this is a good idea? The ‘science’ say people should not be traveling and mixing with others at all. The idea that a 14 day quarantine is a guarantee against infection is not reality either, there are simply too many variables to be certain. The fact that our Chief Medical officer seems to support this shows how his ‘scientific’ opinion has been compromised by politics. He should be ashamed, he has lost the public trust in my opinion.

      • Posted by Ignorant Masses on

        Yes, scientifically you can have 0% risk by restricting all travel. But yes, science has said 14 days quarantine is likely to be sufficient. That isn’t a guarantee or certainty, but good enough. Are you advocating that no one on medical travel or no students should have been permitted to return? I doubt it. Absolutely certainty has a cost.

        Advocating for 0% risk, at the expense of residents being illegally barred from going home, isn’t tenable. At some point you need to weigh the risk of infection (minimal with 14 days isolation) with the cost of keeping residents out. We already do this with the importation of food and goods, where we weigh the risk the virus isn’t likely to spread via those means. We can do the same with humans.

        • Posted by Science you say? on

          There a significant difference between medical travel and moving residents home and calling back teachers to ‘work’. Of course there are always some risks in any situation, but why add risk when there is no necessity or purpose in doing so? That’s the real issue here.

          • Posted by Missed the point? on

            You seem to have misunderstood the original post. Poster is saying exactly that, whereas your reply suggests poster advocated for Educations mandated return, which she didn’t.

            • Posted by Science you say? on

              My comments are in response to the suggestion in the original post that by challenging the GN on bringing back the teachers from the south the Municipalities in Nunavut are acting “based on emotion rather than science.” That statement makes no sense as I doubt there is any credible scientist who would support the GN’s morally bankrupt and indefensible position.
              That is my only point here.

  4. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    I hope that we are all in agreement that we would like to keep Covid-19 out of Nunavut as long as possible, and hopefully until each community obtains adequate PPE, which includes gowns, masks, and gloves, and that additional ventilators are sent from the south.
    I believe that it is inevitable that Covid-19 will eventually be inadvertently introduced to Nunavut. My hope is that when that happens, Nunavut is prepared. This would include therapeutics to reduce the viral load in individuals, especially the elderly. Ideally there would also be rapid testing, if necessary available for a complete community that could be done on site. Of course the Holy Grail would be a vaccine.
    It will be a few weeks, maybe a month before the necessary additional PPE can be shipped from southern cities critically short. A Canadian designed and built rapid test is in trials now and should be available in the immediate future. A vaccine is still some ways off but most countries are working on one, and if it is possible I have faith that science will triumph.
    The whole point is to keep the Covid-19 virus out and to buy time for these things to happen. That is why asking teachers to come back is not a good idea, not right now, not when a pandemic the likes of which we haven’t seen in over a hundred years is in progress.
    But what about returning students, or medical patients. These are full time Nunavut residents, most born, raised, and with family in a Nunavut community. They do not have a full time home in southern Canada. There is a process in place to mitigate the risk of these returning residents.
    The Premier needs to step up and lead. Cancel the remainder of the school year and release any teachers that want to leave with full pay. For those teachers that would like to stay and work on ways to educate students in the fall under this “new normal”, say thank you, and pay them a bonus.

  5. Posted by Iara on

    It has been 17 years since the SARS outbreak.

    Why are there only half a dozen ventilators available in Nunavut today?

    • Posted by Reality on

      You need specialized staff who can run them, it’s an ICU (intensive care) thing and Nunavut doesn’t have an ICU, people needing intensive care are shipped south. The population in Nunavut is too small to keep specialties like critical care operational.

    • Posted by Keith on

      Because ventilators aren’t glorified oxygen masks. They require constant supervision and there simply aren’t enough staff in most communities to use them properly.

    • Posted by Ventilators are not robots on

      Because you need doctors to run these ventilators.

    • Posted by Trained Workforce on

      We lack the trained workforce to operate them. Without the staff to operate them, they are useless.

  6. Posted by Shaking my head –disgusted by attitudes on

    Imagine people returning from medical –perhaps a child accompanied by a parent, or someone has had a baby or surgery and they are being welcomed back to their home (hopefully with 2m distancing) and then you have a school employee met with hostility.
    Both patient and employee have just finished their 14 day quarantine in the same hotel and have flown in on the same flight. Clearly there are elements of racism woven all through this.

    What universe are people living in to think that the employee is more dangerous and therefore shouldn’t be allowed into the community?

    Employees do need to return to schools, with staggered times for being in the building—classrooms need to be cleaned up, along with all sorts of other ‘end of year’ things that need to happen too. Marks & report cards need to be done, reviewed, printed, etc. There might need to be some planning meetings that need to happen—school staff spaced out, lining the walls of the gym, for example—conversations could happen that way. Get this stuff done over the course of a week and then shut it all down. School year done.
    If the 80+ school employees in the south are given a choice about remaining south or returning north, then that same choice needs to be extended to all other school employees presently in Nunavut who’ve been sitting on stand-by for weeks.
    (People are assuming that none of these 80 individuals want to return to Nunavut presently– that’s an unfair assumption).

    Shocking news: for some people Nunavut is their home. And now they are facing a huge backlash– look at it: It’s playing out all over the place.
    This will hugely impact hiring for teaching positions for the next school year. Someone who might have been interested in teaching in the north does a quick Google search: “Nunavut + teachers” . . . we all know what is going to appear on their screen: seeing all of that—who would want to come here to teach? Also thinking there is going to be a spike in people not wanting term renewals and in resignations.

    • Posted by Nunavut Xenophobia on Full Display on

      Yes, the racist and xenophobic element of Nunavut society is on full display. Anyone familiar with Nunavut is familiar with this, but it is rare to see it on such open display.

      Conceptually, these folks are no more risk to Nunavut than any other returning Nunavummiut. They all follow the same quarantine rules, etc. Yet I don’t hear a clamour to keep other Nunavut residents such as students, medical travellers, or just general returning residents away. This makes zero sense, but does highlight some very unpleasant attitudes among much of the population.

      That being said, I don’t see the purpose in requiring these teachers to return. To what end? To accomplish what? If any Nunavummiut wishes to return, be they a teacher or not, that is fine, and their choice, but forcing folks to return when there is nothing meaningful for them to do is a tremendous waste of money and effort. This doesn’t even address the fact that Joansie’s instructions seem to be in direct contradiction of the state of emergency as teachers have not been deemed essential services.

      • Posted by Reverse Racism on

        Couldn’t agree more. Probably the only place in Canada where this is publicly tolerated. Now its not just the cab drivers from Africa, but 85 “southern” teachers or mining company employees.

        Its amazing that so many will immediately conclude that not one if them are residents, that they’re all not Inuit, that none want to actually return home, and that they are all going to infect Nunavut even with isolation. Shameless. Double standard for non-Inuit. This is why the Territory is so behind.

  7. Posted by Deborah on

    One suggestion waS they were bringing teachers to act as nurses aide in case of a pandemic

    • Posted by Full Swing on

      In case of pandemic? The pandemic is in full swing. Not quite sure how that got missed, it was declared more than a month ago.

      Regardless, being a nurse’s aid is waaaay outside of the job description and training. Good luck with that one.

      • Posted by That’s what happened in Nunavik on

        That’s already happening in Nunavik, teachers are being asked to work in healthcare. They told teachers who wanted to go home that they could go home because the school year was over, then a few days before their flights, they cancelled all the flights on the request of the regional health board who wanted all the teachers to stay in the region to help out in healthcare. Only because the union intervened were people not forced to work in healthcare, but they are still being asked to volunteer.

  8. Posted by Concerned parent and grandparent on

    Concerned Parent and grandparent

    Are they blind and deaf?
    What does not sink into your brains?
    Are you stupid or what?
    The rest of schools are closed in Canada. Are we not part of Canada?
    Don’t you see or hear Prime Ministers , WHO, and Chief Public Health Officer?
    What if the teachers returning get infected while travelling?
    They have to sleep over too in the cities?
    What if one or some of them got infected during their travels?
    What if they sued the Nunavut Government if they did get infected while travelling.
    No one is immune to this virus.
    Once the children are back to school they have to interact closely because all classrooms are way to small .
    Are we not to be social distancing?
    There are to be no more than five people close to each other.
    And look at how many students are to be close to each other.
    Is there something unseen or unthinkable we’re not seeing nor thinking? That this could be part of genocide among the Inuit!
    For many reasons and this is number one, For money.

    We should let all concerned public sign the petition because not everyone has Facebook or email.
    And make this petition fair to everyone .
    All the Hamlets of Nunavut should let them call in to be part of the petition so they don’t have to go there.
    And fax the petition.

    • Posted by Get a grip on

      “That this could be part of genocide among the Inuit!?”
      Though I agree with the gist of your points, this kind of rubbish has no place in a serious discussion like this. It is the kind of mindset we see often here and it is one made possible by the mass ignorance of our populace. Unreal.

    • Posted by Please read news articles more carefully on

      You, and a whole lot of other people fail to understand what the GN has said. It has been repeatedly stated that NU schools are not reopening to students on April 21. This has been stated by different news agencies, in Fb pages of these news agencies, in the GN’s live updates in the afternoons. It has been stated repeatedly in Inuktitut and in English.
      Any employee returning from the south, have undergone strict & supervised 14 days of the quarantine,. They aren’t more dangerous than FANS students or medical travellers coming home. This is fear-mongering and racism.

      One more time– incase people still don’t understand : students are not coming back to schools on April 21. No one has said that that is what will happen: people have imagined it all by not listening & reading carefully (in Inuktitut or English). Stop being so gullible in listening to & believing rumours spread by ill-informed community members.

      • Posted by Observer on

        Well, we understand the GN clearly can’t do simple math, given that they declared that the teachers had to do something that was physically impossible for them to do because someone didn’t realize that you can’t have them in quarantine for 14 days and be back on the 21st.

    • Posted by Really on

      Your comment is just selfish and reflects most of the comments above.
      – Classrooms are too small? LOL Have you been at a school?
      – Social Distancing? LOL Have you seen the adults and children in communities playing talking or walking together, skin on skin
      – Are we not Canada? I guess you can twist the subject as you can see it fit. Most of the times there is just Nunavut and “Southerners” are considered just bad, not welcomed or should stay home
      – About the money? Don’t fool yourself. There is more money spend in Nunavut for useless stuff and to support Nunavumiut and non essential communities
      Do you know what will happen in September? No schools because of comments like yours and hundreds of others on this teacher discussions. Who the heck would come to Nunavut where there is no proper healthcare and where residents rather complain then trying to cooperate and helping bringing and keeping kids in schools. Keep on bashing, what comes around, goes around

    • Posted by Unwanted Legacy on

      Well, if it is, it will the Inuit-majority leadership inflicting it on the territory. Now there would be a a political legacy few would want.

  9. Posted by tuktuborel on

    Some teachers call NUnavut their home. Let them come back. The others who may want to stay south for personal reasons, let them remain there. There can not be any great benefit in forcing teachers back to work for a school year that is all but closed for the rest of this school year.
    The concern that returning teachers are going to be virus carriers is over blown and really biased. There seems to be little concern for residents and anyone on medical travel returning so why this great concern about teachers. All travelers follow the same quarantine process don’t they?

    • Posted by Ingrained Habits Run Deep on

      It is the whole racist and xenophobic insider/outsider, us versus them, who is a real Nunavummiut mindset showing its ugly head. Very very deeply ingrained in Nunavut culture. Nothing like it anywhere else in Canada.

  10. Posted by Qikiqtaalummiu on

    Teachers can come back if they choose to and other’s whom don’t, the thing is parents not taking care of the children as in the public they going all over the place not practicing social distancing and causing trouble and which has risen the amount of break ins and vandalism .Teachers are coming back two week isolation before heading here and two weeks before heading to the public they will be monitored, the other point some added patients not going into isolation in home and just going right out the door next day,The municipality’s again has no power to change things but can address the situation in Letter or arrive in person. In tough decisions like these we all need ot be clam about what is about to happen or not happen. over time there has been politicians talking about these but got voted out.We need solidarity commitment and good Leadership at this point and that leads to us all. We need to help parents and caregivers as one or the other works. We need focus and tough decisions like these need a group of local experts.?

  11. Posted by Anonymous on

    We have a small population in Nunavut of 33,000. We are not against the people but we are against the coronavirus. We are just trying to take care of each other by controlling air traffic until the pandemic is finally over.
    That is how we are trying to flatten the line.

    • Posted by Missing Folks on

      33,000? You’ve missed about 25% of the population in there somewhere.

  12. Posted by Shutdown came too soon on

    Basically, they jumped the gun in closing the schools in the first place. There were NO cases in Nunavut when they shut down, and since every community is a fly-in, people do not just come and go on their own. Instead of shutting everything down, they should have put a 2-week mandatory isolation on each person coming to Nunavut (which they did anyway), and they could have designated a hotel in large communities like Iqaluit to do that in. There was no need for society to shut down, or any social distancing in the communities when there are no cases. Once a case appears, as it eventually likely will, then that would be the time to start with social distancing and other measures. By the time people actually need to social distance, they will be so sick of it they won’t be listening any more. Also, I do note that people in Nunavut jump at any reason to stay off work or school, and like it or not, that is part of this as well.

    • Posted by Keith on

      I take it you haven’t been paying attention. Once you get the first case in a community IT’S TOO LATE TO START SOCIAL DISTANCING. Look at Puvirnituq. If they hadn’t closed everything down and started social distancing beforehand, BEFORE their first positive, their current outbreak would not have been limited to one isolated family, they’d be looking at it everywhere in that community.
      Have you been paying any attention whatsoever to what’s happening in the rest of the world?

    • Posted by tuktuborel on

      I agree.
      At the start this (shutdown/isolation) was needed to ensure there were no cases of COVID-19. To date there are no known cases in Nunavut due to the GN policies. Good work!
      But to have everyone still isolating while the travel restrictions are in place, no longer makes sense. Who are we isolating are selves from…just everyone else in Nunavut who doesn’t have COVID-19. Why?

      • Posted by Out of Date on

        Yeah, the only problem with that is that there has been a constant flow of people into Nunavut.

        They have been saying for the last 3 weeks that somewhere north of 30% of people who test positive have zero symptoms. These people can spread the disease to others, and have no signs that they are infected.

        The folks in isolation in Ottawa, Montreal, etc, are not actually receiving nasal swab tests. They are just being observed for any obvious signs of the disease. It is certainly possible that any one of the returning students, residents, medical travellers, or other residents are asymptomatic carriers.

        As has been said before, by the time you identify your first case, it is too late.

        • Posted by Keith on

          Numbers out of Chin and South Korea are showing that 70% or more of infections are caused by asymptomatic carriers or carriers with symptoms so mild that they’re easily overlooked. In other words, you are more likely to catch the virus from someone who isn’t running a fever, isn’t coughing, hasn’t lost their sense of taste, or any of the other symptoms that simple screenings are looking for.
          They’re also finding that some people are shedding the virus for a longer time than others. That 14 day period is sufficient for *most* cases, but there will be some that exceed it and still be capable of shedding the active virus. So you combine someone who is asymptomatic who also happens to be one of those relatively rare (so far as we know) long-term carriers, and they’ll sail right through that quarantine. It’s unlikely, but entirely possible.
          The other possibility is someone on a flight crew who is an asymptomatic carrier, or one of the nurses or doctors coming in. They’re taking precautions such as wearing masks, but it only takes one slip, and given we’re dealing with humans, someone will inevitably make a mistake. Without widespread testing, which can’t be done yet, we can’t be sure that everyone coming in will be virus-free.

  13. Posted by Wow on

    Wow. The racial prejudice in these comments are something else. As a non-Inuit who has lived in Nunavut, I was astounded by the daily racism in the community I lived in. Let the teachers come back if they are self isolating as this is their livelihood. The coronavirus does not only spread “by quabloonaaq”

  14. Posted by Yikes on

    More of people not listening and reading news carefully.
    All patients, employees and residents spend 14 day quarantined and supervised before being given a letter of authorization to travel into the territory. These people have all done their 14 days of isolation. When they reach their communities they are not quarantined or self isolating for another 14 days. Of course, they need to stay home, as much as possible, not visit or have people over to their homes, limit trips to the store, cough into their elbows, frequent hand washing, etc.

    Why is everyone working at the coop, northern, post office not wearing a mask? Yes, surgical masks & N95 masks should be left for our the health care workers.
    Nunavut needs to start sewing masks- by hand or machine. Make many for each person in your home: they need to be washed regularly (keep track of which side of the mask is against your face). Get kids to help make them. Special materials not needed –use leftover fabric (cotton is good) & bias tape you already have or braid ties from yarn. Other masks can be made from an old 100% cotton t-shirt & require no sewing. Elastic bands can be used even. Instructions for many different styles can easily be found online. Get use to wearing one and not touching your face. These homemade masks are not as good as the factory made ones, but they are better than nothing: 1) if you are carrying the virus but not showing symptoms, by wearing a mask you help protect others around you & 2) they will offer you some level of protection in coming in contact with the virus. People in the rest of Canada and in countries around the world are wearing homemade masks—why is Nunavut not encouraging its citizens to do the same?

    People should be wearing these masks any time they leave their homes when heading to an area where there are others whom don’t live in their house– post office, store, going to the hamlet, airport etc

    School shutdown might have been a slight bit early, but we’re talking about a handful of days here. There were no known cases in Nunavut at the time. Weeks later, I remain of the opinion that COVID is in the territory, but only presenting with mild symptoms. Waiting for people to test positive before closing schools could have been utterly disastrous. Nunavut has extremely low testing rates & this is something that needs to be ramped up.

    The blatant racism is something else. You are talking about people who moved to the north, many who’ve lived here for awhile, who have invested in your community, school & students. This targeting of educators is disgusting, shameful & embarrassing for the territory as a whole. Shame.
    Good luck with retention & new hiring Nunavut.

  15. Posted by Paul Murphy on

    And let not forget our so -called leaders here. We have “leaders who have referred to the “temporaries” and other non inuit who shouldn’t be let back in. Regardless of the investment those same people have made in Nunavut and their communities. Then we have the Nunavut Association of Mayors commenting out of their league who as a group appear to have no concept of what is going on with the outbreak.
    I am not aware of any of these “leaders” as doctors of medicine, So what are they using for backup for their ongoing fear mongering and sometimes outright racisim, I am sure most inuit see through their facade. Your attempt at controlling our population is fading.

    • Posted by Festering Away in Isolation on

      The good thing of this outbreak is that it has brought the very deeply ingrained racism among many Inuit into full focus.

      It will be good for the rest of Canada to know the sort of racist sickness that has been festering in Nunavut society. Attention can only help clean it up.

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