Nunavut premier punts on vaccine passports

Joe Savikataaq says decision should be made after federal and territorial elections

Iqalummiut line up at Nunavut Tunngavik Inc.’s vaccination clinic in June. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By David Venn
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Government of Nunavut will wait until after federal and territorial elections to decide if the territory will adopt a form of vaccine passport, says Premier Joe Savikataaq.

With the federal election on Sept. 20 and the territorial election on Oct. 25, he said now is too precarious a time to make a decision.

“That kind of decision would be best made [by] the next government, as they will be responsible for implementation and monitoring,” Savikataaq said in an email.

As it stands, Nunavummiut receive a vaccination record card when they get their first vaccine dose. If it gets lost, they can request a copy of their proof of vaccination at their local health centre. All vaccine records are also stored electronically.

Department of Health spokesperson Danarae Sommerville said the territory is looking to expand that card into a letter that meets national standards — such as an accessible paper and digital copy of medical information and vaccine history — that “will look identical to other Canadian jurisdictions’ letter.”

That will most likely move ahead when the technology, called, SMART Health Cards, is launched, Sommerville said.

John Main, MLA for Arviat-North and Whale Cove, said he would like to see some form of vaccine passport be introduced by the territory, as it would help with Nunavummiut who are travelling to other provinces and territories.

Arviat was one of the hardest-hit hamlets in the territory by COVID-19. Between November 2020 and April 2021, 338 people caught the virus and one died.

Whale Cove, a community of 435 people (2016), on the other hand, had a breakout between November 2020 and February 2021 that accumulated to 23 positive cases.

Main said a concern he has been hearing from constituents is that there are lengthy delays when getting their isolation hub exemption letter for returning to the territory, and he wants to see that become more convenient.

“It is frustrating for people who have the vaccine and who have met the requirements … waiting for these exemption letters,” he said.

The federal government said vaccine passports will be adopted in the fall for international travel. The government also requires travellers to have vaccination proof to access commercial flights, interprovincial trains and cruise ships.

Savikataaq said the GN would have to “consult with the business community and staff” before deciding if a vaccine passport would be used for non-essential businesses.

Main similarly said that more conversations need to happen about what vaccine passports may affect, such as going to rec league hockey or getting a haircut.

Several other jurisdictions in Canada, meanwhile, are moving forward with vaccine passports. Quebec’s program, which includes Nunavik, began Wednesday. British Columbia, Manitoba and, most recently, Ontario have also decided to embrace vaccine passports.

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(30) Comments:

    • Posted by typical on

      His “i’ll make someone decide for me” posts once again

  1. Posted by Good decision on

    Justin Trudeau is trying to force vaccine passport and limit travel to Nunavummiut and Nunavimmiut so that we can not board aircraft to see our families thank you Mr Premier for not forcing this upon us until we know results of the election.

    We pray for Conservative party to win so that we can not be forced to do stuff against our will and beliefs.

    • Posted by Pray on

      Praying’s how you folks got yourselves into this silly pointless mess.

    • Posted by divisive on

      You mention prayer, so I take it you are religious. Me too. Jesus encouraged his true followers to put concern and love for neighbors ahead of concern for themselves. Refusing to wear a little piece of cloth on your face, refusing to get vaccines that are now proven to significantly lower the risk of severe illness and spread of covid (don’t believe me? look at Alberta…the lowest vaccination rate in Canada and the highest case count) tells me that you care more about yourself and don’t have love of neighbor.

  2. Posted by Alan Klie on

    It’s unfortunate that the government doesn’t move ahead on this now. Without these passports, or something like it federally, or really restricts the ability of Nunavummiut to travel, particularly with the Christmas season coming up. Travel throughout Europe requires a digital passport that the EU will accept (has some info like vaccination dates, vaccine type and a QR code). That being said, you can travel to certain individual European countries without a COVID passport but more extensive travel is difficult. The federal government has said that a Canadian digital COVID passport requires buy-in from the provinces and territories as they health care is their responsibility and they hold the information. Without work on this, Nunavummiut will have their Christmas plans restricted, likely. It’s too bad the territorial government isn’t moving on this.

    On another note, I’m surprised to hear that people are having their isolation exemption applications take a long time. I e-mailed the form in along with a photo of my vaccination card and got the exemption within a few hours.

    • Posted by digital with other provinces on

      You are correct, it is more for if we travel out of Nunavut. Our little vaccine card may not be accepted, when most places are looking for a digital phone attachment. If Ontario and Quebec require a digital proof for entrance to places we may find that anyone that looks at our card may say they only accept the digital proof to be compliant

  3. Posted by Bye bye gutless pretend leader on

    No courage whatsoever! Having the courage to take a needle for the safety of the community has to have some rewards and the selfish dumb folk who are in the ice age should be denied services to protect the smart residents! Let the Stone Age people have to live with inconvenience as they are making us all suffer! Come on MLAs and wannabes make sure to elect a leader next time!

  4. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    The Government of Canada needs to get on top of this and coordinate with the provinces and international partners. There is no question on “if” this is required, 4 provinces with over 75% of the population have said that they will be using vaccine passports.
    Internationally a growing number of countries are already using vaccine passports and QR coded apps to indicated vaccination status and in some cases a negative PCR test within the last month. The GN should get onboard now when they can have some input.

  5. Posted by For Once on

    For Once, reward people who follow recommendations. So many people follow recommendations but are the more silent majority. The silent majority is being forced to adjust to loud minority, I think it’s time that the loud minority is forced to adjust to the silent majority. There are more vaccinated people in Nunavut than non vaccinated. Vaccinated people have their reason for getting vaccinated just as non vaccinated people have theirs but the non vaccinated cry more about restrictions and adjustments are made to suite them better.

  6. Posted by Make the non-vaccinated pay for their isolation on

    As these selfish, self righteous people are placing us on unnecessary risk, why are my tax dollar covering their hotel stays and meals. This has to end and make them cover the costs themselves. They should cover their own costs for the test they have to take. Passports should be mandatory and deprive these people access to non-essential services for their choice.

  7. Posted by Abracadabra on

    I do think we need to be wary of vaccine passports and our privacy. What is next? A passport showing your tb status, your heart rate, results of other medical tests, other health info before you are allowed in a gym, restaurant, hairdresser’s? What next? Only people who behave in certain ways, who are socially acceptable, are allowed in certain places, as the social credit score initiated in a country like China? Conformity with a standard set by whom, by fear, corporate pressure, government policy? We need to be wary of the slippery slope we may get into because of widespread fear during this pandemic. Those of us who are vaccinated should feel more comfortable that we are less at risk of serious illness or death if we encounter the virus. Those who are not vaccinated are more at risk. Isn’t that enough for us to learn to live again? That and education and ongoing research on treatments and possibly new vaccines?

    • Posted by Slippery Slope Fallacy on

      Your Logical Fallacy Is: Slippery Slope!
      “You said that if we allow A to happen, then Z will eventually happen too, therefore A should not happen.”
      The problem with this reasoning is that it avoids engaging with the issue at hand, and instead shifts attention to extreme hypotheticals. Because no proof is presented to show that such extreme hypotheticals will in fact occur, this fallacy has the form of an appeal to emotion fallacy by leveraging fear. In effect the argument at hand is unfairly tainted by unsubstantiated conjecture.
      Example: Colin Closet asserts that if we allow same-sex couples to marry, then the next thing we know we’ll be allowing people to marry their parents, their cars and even monkeys.

      • Posted by Abracadabra2 on

        Good point to some extent (use of personal information by government and businesses on vaccine status vs other types of health or personal information is not a far fetched slippery slope devoid of a factual basis like the example you provide). There is a concern that out of fear (of covid-19) we will accept measures that we otherwise would not, and that is the concern, that we will rush into accepting something to address an immediate fear without looking at how it is opening a door that has not been opened to date or has been closed over years of democracy. I am not currently concerned with government misuse of the information on our vaccine or other health status in Canada but I am concerned about government mismanagement of the information and business and general population misuse of it. There is evidence of private/personal information being mismanaged and misused in Canada by governments and businesses with negative impacts on individuals. In crises, we accept new things, which in some cases is good, because we become more open minded and creative but it is not always a good thing, and individual privacy is a very important concept to many, including in health matters, and it is essential to protecting the dignity of individuals, their access to services, their participation in society, and to protecting individuals from populist mobs.

    • Posted by The Old Trapper on

      I look at it a bit differently – in a civil society people have both rights and responsibilities/obligations.
      I can understand some very few people who are unable medically to be vaccinated, fine make an exception for them.
      Those that choose not to get the vaccine (or even to wear a mask) have an obligation not to spread a contagious (possibly deadly) virus to others, especially as they may have no symptoms and may be unaware that they even have the virus.
      I really don’t want to be infected by someone who is ignorant, scientifically illiterate, or believes that Covid-19 is just one big conspiracy by some shadowy cabal to rule the world. Or who believes that the mRNA vaccines change your DNA, magnetize your body, or have microchips courtesy of Bill Gates. (Why always Bill Gates, seems more like something Jeff Bezos would do).
      As for the slippery slope argument there may be some validity to it, but in this case I think that it is outweighed by the 1.5 million cases of coronavirus infection and 27,000 killed by the virus in the past 19 months.
      Also our government is nowhere close to as authoritarian as China. Not that it can’t happen in the west (looking at you Texas, and you Florida) but I think that most Canadians have better common sense.

  8. Posted by PS on

    Decision should be based on what is needed in other provinces. Even if its not required in Nunavut, provide a way for Nunavut residents to prove their vaccination status outside.
    Don’t blame the election for this poor leadership.

  9. Posted by Pain In The Groen on

    It seems like only yesterday that Nunavut was a shining example of effective pandemic response. Now, we have leadership more concerned about re-election than making the right decision for the safety of Nunavut and its residents.

    Sorry Joe. Ain’t no half steppin’.

  10. Posted by No Guts But Wants Glory on

    Truly this Premier can’t be seeking re-election to be Premier for another term?? The world has been talking about vaccine passports for months now and the current Premier is making it sound like this is a new concept.
    Thankfully we had a good Chief Medical Officer during the outbreak because I don’t think this Premier or Cabinet would have known where to turn for help.
    Let hope that we are saved by the new Premier. We need someone that knows how to take the caribou by the antlers and make a statement, and someone who is not afraid to make a decision. I think the problem here is that after stealing the Premiership from someone more competent this Premier fears making a decision.
    Very sad for the territory especially when the Federal Government has said the provinces and territories can make their own decision but the federal government will pay for it. Common sense or No Guts But Wants Glory..

  11. Posted by Consistency on

    Yes i think everyone should get the vaccination shots. And maybe have a vac passport for travel, however if they make that a digital thing, not everyone in Nunavut has a cell phone… and phones get bought and sold so often that it would be a real pain to keep getting the right update for the person that now owns the phone.
    Also within Nunavut we should not need any of that for community activities. it would be pointless. no one really cares when Covid is not in their community and wont be social distancing anyway outside of planed events so it would be pointless to pretend to care at public events. All this will do is isolate a few people and build resentment.
    This is Nunavut we are in this together and we help each other no matter what.

  12. Posted by Northener on

    So what happens if i travel to quebec and want to go to a restaurant . I guess i can’t get in because i have no vaccine passport? If thats the case i think nunavut should get on board with the rest of canada

  13. Posted by Unfortunate on

    I like Joe and how he’s handled the Premiership but I don’t like this move. The wheels should have been in motion by now and puts everyone in uncharted territory. Playing is safe is a political move and now the earliest we’ll find out about a passport is in November after the Leadership Forum. God forbid we end up with a Premier Netser.

    I hope regular members grill cabinet on this one during their last sitting. They know we’ll need these passports when travelling to other provinces, so let us know what our options are now.

  14. Posted by Bert Rose on

    In the 1950’s we virtually eliminated Polio by everyone getting innocculated.
    No one grumbled.
    In the 1990’s we virtually eliminated Smallpox by everyone getting innocculated inoculated.
    No one grumbled.
    Starting in 2019 the entire world was hit by Corona 19 virus. Efforts to eliminate it have been delayed by groundless anti masking protests, anti vaccinations protests etc while millions of people died.
    The solution I favor is make vaccinations compulsory for everyone.
    And STOP the smoke and mirrors yapping about it.

    • Posted by Alan Klie on

      Smallpox was eradicated by the 1980s. I think the last natural case was 1979? There may have been an accidental lab-based one later on. Other than some small stockpiles in research labs, smallpox is gone.

  15. Posted by Geez on

    October and ze vote will be here very soon. People like to gripe.

  16. Posted by Wise decision on

    Let’s calm down. The GN represents all of Nunavunmiut, not just Iqalungmiut. This decision is one of the wisest decision made yet since the whole covid ordeal was on everyone’s minds. Provinces are all making their decisions based on their own current situation. The GN is closely watching, monitoring and controlling all medical travellers. This is paramount. For the rest of you, you are smart enough, educated enough to do your own research and react amongst yourselves to seek any needed approval systems to freely-safely traverse throughout the country if you have the need. Waiting three weeks to make the final decision allows time to for this administration implement it appropriately, safely and to consider all of the challenges involved in making sure “all Nunavunmiut” have the opportunity to receive the needed verifications to travel outside their comfort zones. I say good on the Premier and the GN to wait this thing out.

  17. Posted by Westerner on

    I know I will NOT vote for this guy as he was just picked by the new MLAs not knowing this outcome , otherwise they would have picked a better candidate to run the territory, very unfortunate that he became premier without the territory voting him in , our MLAs need to get a better understanding of the consequences that the legislature brought by this biased individual who has been ignoring the Nunavut population. Live and learn people and pass it on . Nunavut needs a leader that sees the territory as a whole entity and not only focus on a region .

  18. Posted by Options on

    The Legislature will be in session in about a week.
    1. It could pass a law creating vaccine passports for Nunavummiut.
    2. It could hold a Leadership Forum and replace the Premier for the few days remaining in his term.
    3. It could vote for an immediate election in Nunavut.
    4. It could ask questions of the Ministers and the Ministers could give non-answers — business as usual.
    Which of the options listed above do you expect to see?

    • Posted by Westerner on

      I hope they kick him out of his position
      The biggest disposition the territory may make is to vote him in again. I know us westerners never voted him in as the legislature is only regionally biased and leave the westernmost communities out


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