Nunavik organizations plan a cautious re-opening

“It’s an advantage to be an isolated region. We have that control.”

A Dash-8 sits on the tarmac at Kuujjuaq’s airport. “Considering the increase in the number of cases in the south and the risk of reintroduction of COVID-19 in Nunavik by travellers, it is recommended to avoid all non-essential travel to and from the south,” the region’s health board said on Oct. 15. (File photo)

By Sarah Rogers

Nunavik will be gradually easing COVID-19 restrictions in the weeks to come, but regional organizations are asking residents to be patient.

The region has been more or less on lockdown since March 23, with all commercial flights to its 14 villages halted, and only essential services operating.

A week after the lockdown announcement, Nunavik announced its first case of COVID-19. In total, Nunavik had 16 cases of infection, though all those individuals have since recovered.

Since March, regional organizations have responded to the pandemic under the umbrella of the Nunavik Regional Emergency Preparedness Advisory Committee (N-REPAC), whose eight subcommittees oversee various aspects of life in the region, like food security, transport and community living.

Members of that committee said on Tuesday, May 26, that plans to re-open the region are now underway, and Nunavimmiut should hear about eased restrictions in the days and weeks to come.

The KRG’s director general, Michael Gordon, speaks at a regional council meeting held on May 25-26 by videoconference.

“Reopening is something we really have to focus on right now,” Michael Gordon, Kativik Regional Government’s director general, told regional council meetings on May 26. “We don’t want our population to be at risk.”

Air travel has been one of the most pressing demands among Nunavimmiut, who rely heavily on both inter-community air travel to connect with relatives and on an air link to Montreal, the region’s major urban hub.

But others say the region isn’t ready to open up to travel. For instance, municipal leaders in Kangiqsualujjuaq declined an important health-care renovation that would have required a construction crew fly in from Montreal.

But following the lead of Quebec health officials, who have already eased a number of measures in southern regions, Nunavik will gradually start to open certain services.

“If not this week, then next week,” said Fred Gagné, the KRG’s assistant director general, in KRG meetings held by videoconference on May 26.

“It’s a process and this is a first. We have to be careful,” he said. “In this case, it’s an advantage to be an isolated region. We have that control.”

Nunavik’s two operating mines, Canadian Royalties’ Nunavik Nickel mine and Glencore Group’s Raglan mine, have already re-opened after temporary closures in April. But both mines are testing staff for COVID-19 and only operating direct flights between Montreal and their mine sites.

While schools in parts of Quebec have re-opened for the remainder of the year, Nunavik schools will remain closed, a decision Kativik Ilisarniliriniq made on March 24.

As of last week, the Quebec government began to loosen rules around some social gatherings, allowing people from different households to meet, as long as groups meet outdoors and continue to keep a two-metre distance from each other. Those rules apply to Nunavik.

But health officials are still warning people not to visit elders or people with compromised immune systems.

Quebec also recommends that people wear masks when they are outside their homes, though this is not mandatory.

Since May 5, all 16 Nunavimmiut who initially tested positive for COVID-19 (one in Salluit, one in Inukjuak and 14 in Puvirnituq) have all recovered.

As of May 17, the health board said that 236 people have been tested across the region.

That testing continues; labs in Puvirnituq and Kuujjuaq are still prepared to analyze hundreds of screening tests per week, the health board said this week.

Emergency response teams remain on call in each community if needed, the health board said.

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(7) Comments:

  1. Posted by Second wave on

    Remember it’s not over , until it’s over. It may never be over really. We survived so we’ll during this first wave, but wait , a second wave is predicted. We survived the first wave , in all probability to do with nothing we have done preventively. We are just at the mercy of the area we are in, not what we had done to prevent anything. If the covid gets in to nunavik, , not just those 16 cases, I am talking really getting in, then we are in for quite the battle. Kids out all day, mostly night. Drunks going around in old beat up vehicles, crowds. If it gets here , it’s going to be big. My 2 cents there.

    • Posted by Nunavik Inuk on

      We can always stay closed for another 6-12 months , its not like , the world need Nunavik, but Nunavik needs the world. I on , the other hand , would like to get back to work , I am suffering from cabin fever.

  2. Posted by Observer on

    “It’s an advantage to be an isolated region. We have that control.” ??? I doubt it. Our elected leaders are fighting to give their two cents in. Staff (DG’s, Exec Directors) are kissing QC Gov butts for some reason. Major decisions and press releases have gone out from Organizations without their elected executives, board members even looking at it. Even Horacio Arruda looked down on Nunavik Elected leaders diminishing their powers and voices stating that all powers lay with the Chief Medical Doctor for Nunavik; Dr. Marie Rochchette. I have a feeling this has to do with the proposed Ethnic Government that Canada Supports, that our elected officials and organizations support. We do have Nunavimmiut against the idea of an ethnic government who do have non-ethnic spouses or close ties with. As a Nunavimmiuk, I feel that we are being run by outsiders during this pandemic and the QC government is using it as a tool to squash our attempt at an Ethnic Government. I’d like to remind Nunavimmiut to step up, say “no” when you need to and take a very close look at everything being implemented.

    • Posted by Who can we trust ? on

      The N-RPAC as a mandate to respond to any large scale emergency situation such as the actual pandemic. Its mandate and structure was set up years ago by elected people because in a time of crisis, time is critical, quick response often is of prime value to save lives and properties. In their mandate to respond, they are full-fledged and do not have to obtain validation of any board. Nevertheless, in the re-opening process, they set up height sub-committees to oversee various aspect such as food security, transport, education, construction, community living. This is possible since restriction easing do not need to be done in emergency.
      The members of those 8 committees are either :
      – elected members of important local and regional organization,
      – non-elected representatives appointed by their organization board, and
      – non-elected representatives appointed by their organization non-elected management such as general manager. It is interesting to note that all non-elected manager are hired and kept in duty through therwill of their organization elected members.
      In this perspective, in regard to the easing restriction process, I believe Nunavimmiut are having a chunk of a say in the process.

      Recently, the Makivik leader, claimed high and strong for having a say in restriction easing. Makivik was invited to participate in all sub-committee they had a stake in. They accepted, sent a delegation and participated, then recently changed their mind and decided to withdraw the process. Thus freeing them playing stage manager and claiming they were not consulted. Is it the kind of leadership we want in Nunavik ? How responsible is it to claim to have a say and not participating when it is time to do so ?

      As for Dr Rochette, she is a physician and a public health specialist with a master in epidemiology. When I am sick, I do seek for a qualified doctor. Some might prefer to consult a bunch of elected politician who are claiming to be consulted about your disease. That second choice, I will not take for myself whatever how skilled those politicians might be.

      Restriction easing has a large part of health issues. That’s why I believe, the doctor’s advice is of prime value on those issues. At the same time, restriction easing also have other important implication on our economic wellbeing, community living, culture, education system, housing, jobs, education and so on. I believe our global life is better served when all those aspect are taken in account with the health issues. This is exactly the process the N-REPAC is leading with the sub-committees in order to hear concerns brought to the table by Nunavimmiut.

      When I look at the numbers, I am, up to now, very happy with the decision made by Public Health and Civil Security (both forming the N-REPAC). Those decision kept the number of avoidable death from Covid19 down to zero and kept the pandemic at bay with only 16 cases which all recovered.

      With such a track recork, how reasonable is it to keep trusting N-REPAC’s intention, decisions and actions toward the betterment of all of us Nunavimmiut in a pandemic times ?

      • Posted by Observer on

        N-REPAC double standards. They control who must abide by the 14 Day isolation. A revolving door controlled by COVIDtravel. All the sub-committees are a farce. I ask for an inquiry.

  3. Posted by Concerned air Inuit traveller. on

    Just to be safe for everyone, I hope Air Inuit will provide mask and gloves. Even sanitizers for every passenger. Better yet, less passengers for social distancing.

  4. Posted by Mother on

    They didn’t really re-opening the region, they just do nothing!!! All off the office still closed – KRG, KMHB, Tamaani! All of them look like stopping help Nunavimmiut! The daycare stil closed! The mayor who was voted not to reopen its them who not respect the mesures! The people are tired! The kids are tired! No one respect any more the mesures, because they are tired to be isolated from the world! In the our only store Coop we missing so much food, pampers for baby’s and baby’s milk! But no one care! The NV was received money from the gouvernement to help during this crisis but no one know where this money go! So bad management from KRG and healthy services during this crisis! They telling us not to travel and they stopped us, but the white people working for healthcare and service can do it what they want! This is a discrimination to! We have family to in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto! We have right to see them! And the elders don’t respect to any of the mesures !

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