Nunavut premier says 20 senior staff left territory over the holidays

Fewer than five deputy ministers travelled, all for medical or family reasons, says Joe Savikataaq

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq, seen here during an October news conference, says 20 of the government’s senior staff travelled outside of Nunavut over the holidays and as far as he knows, none have been allowed to skip the 14-day isolation required by public health orders. (Photo by Dustin Patar)

By Mélanie Ritchot

Updated at 3 p.m.

Nunavut Premier Joe Savikataaq says 20 senior staff with the territorial government travelled outside of the territory over the holiday season. Of those, fewer than five deputy ministers left, all for medical or family-related reasons.

“While the GN strongly encourages all employees to take their earned leave in-territory, reasons including medical travel and family emergencies can prompt travel,” he said in a news conference Tuesday.

Only the length and type of leave — such as medical leave  — is reported when GN employees request time off, and Savikataaq said asking more information about travel plans, like specific locations, would be an invasion of privacy.

He said nobody has been allowed to skip the 14-day quarantine required when returning to Nunavut, as far as he knows.

“Like any Nunavummiut who travel outside the territory, senior managers are subject to the isolation requirements,” said Savikataaq.

Those who left the territory work across 10 departments and four agencies, according to the premier.

In terms of how many travelled compared to those who stayed in the territory, “it would be a small percentage,” he said.

Last week Nunavut’s health minister, Lorne Kusugak, said at least one senior employee with the Health Department travelled south.

Savikataaq said one senior official from his portfolio travelled for necessary medical reasons and all cabinet ministers stayed in the territory.

“I have made it clear that non-essential travel is not recommended during COVID-19, especially with the high number of cases during this second wave,” said Savikataaq.

“I’m checking in with my cabinet colleagues to ensure they are diligent in this messaging to their senior management team.”

Correction: This story has been updated to clarify that fewer than five deputy ministers left the territory, all for medical or family reasons.

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(27) Comments:

  1. Posted by A brick on the wall on

    I would love to know how many executives from education travelled, after they denied the opportunity for teachers in their region or any flexible options. We all stayed, and it was a lovely season, so let’s hope those making educational decisions did too.

    • Posted by If you don’t eat your meat, you can’t have any pudding on

      I am sure there would have been an exodus of teachers traveling regardless of the recommendations, if they could have just fit those pesky quarantines into the time available.

  2. Posted by True Northerner on

    Very selfish 20 senior staff in the GN , and here we are in nunavut communities abide all covid restrictions travel between communities and yes we have family in other parts of Nunavut and in the south.
    Been 1 year since I seen my family.
    Just stop your poor excuse that you have family to go see!
    Shows you again they come up to make money.

    Come on Premier put your foot down! Stop with the excuses!

    • Posted by anonymous on

      Poor excuse of a premier, who voted him in? Sorry, but not sorry, he should know better than to allow senior staff to travel, or did he just found out about it?

    • Posted by Hypocrite on

      The Premier does not have a leg to stand on if he were to chastise anyone who travels outside of Nunavut. It was this summer where the Premier traveled out of territory for non-essential reasons.

  3. Posted by Coolkid on

    With high cases of Covid in Winnipeg in Dec., 2020 most medical appointments and surgeries were cancelled. So what medical are we talking about? Many people in Nunavut were denied leave for medical during the holidays.

    • Posted by Cambaymiut on

      “In a shocking development, some residents of Nunavut stunned to discover that not everyone goes to Winnipeg. News at 11.”

  4. Posted by Name withheld on

    I’m sorry Premier, I know of one senior staff member here in the Capital that didn’t stay the 14 day isolation period in Ottawa as this person was considered essential although he only deals with office work.

    So it might be best to question this and get the proper story from the HR within each departments

  5. Posted by Qavvigarjuk on

    Com’on Premier, other premiers in other provinces found out where their Senior staff went to, if on vacation or not. So why find excuses for our senior Government staff. If they went down for medical reasons, fine. But if they went down to see family and vacation , not fine at all. I Have not seen my family either in over a year which has been really hard. Yes I want a break to go down south too but choose to abide by the Chief Medical officer request that we dont. I and the majority of other Nunavumiut have been abiding of what the Government is asking us to do. These people’s name should be made public as was done in the rest of Canada and there should be consequences for them disobeying. They are public officials and need to lead by example. The GN should not be paying for their isolation either !!! That is my tax payer’s money.

  6. Posted by Oscare on

    When Ottawa says come down, the GN says: “We’ll see you soon”. If the GoC and every other organization in Canada and the world wants to take this pandemic seriously ALL duty travel should be stopped PERIOD, nowadays we have Zoom meetings that are just as good. For those people who take personal holidays during this pandemic are SELFISH. Ban all air passenger traffic. I am okay with medical travel and or urgent/emergency family matters. Nunavut got very lucky with minimal communities being hit by Covid. This second wave is worse and now a new varient is even more deadly. Just look at what is going on in Southern Canada, very bad down there and even the USA is very bad, one of the worse countries in the world right now.

  7. Posted by Who was paid to isolate? on

    Nunatsiaq should ask how many senior managers received pay while they isolate in the hubs. Regular employees have been denied this option and forced to use holiday leave for the mandatory hotel isolation even when the job was done for remotely for a few months last spring from home. However I know for a fact senior managers are being paid and don’t need to use vacation to isolate for non essential travel and hubs on the GNs dime. Double standards at the GN as usual. Great morale booster and no transparency or accountability from the GN. Premier cites privacy to hide the facts when the GN often and regularly asks where employees go because they can mandate them back for certain circumstances under the collective agreement and human resources policies. This is a great example of the Premier saying we did not ask so now we can’t tell.

    • Posted by COVID Q&A on

      This is a key issue. Many Nunavummiut, even travelling for medical reasons (ie surgery) have been forced to gone on LWOP during the 14 day quarantine. Many have positions where they are not able to work at a distance OR often supervisors have not considered how to let them work at a distance.

      Executives who can work at a distance experience nothing more than a slightly confined 2 weeks in a hotel. Other employees experience real financial struggles.

      What is the GN doing to ensure equal treatment of all its employees?

      • Posted by Not True on

        Your statement is false. The GN has established a special leave for Quarantine. It does not take away from your sick days. So the isolation hotel does not cause a person to go LWOP if they were down for medical reasons.

  8. Posted by What pandemic? on

    A couple of months ago, Minister Kusugak was asked if the GN would follow suit with the GNWT and have the travellers who fly out of the Territory be responsible to pay for their stay at an isolation hub; he said no, because “people wouldn’t be able to afford it.”

    Um, ok, so these GN senior officials, who are at the top of the food chain, wouldn’t be able to afford a couple of thousand dollars to isolate at a hub?! That’s chunk change for them.

    What a joke. Would be interesting to see how many GN employees left for the holidays and for how long. I hope when this is all over, GN managers will allow their employees who stayed during this ordeal, take two months of leave off and deny the employees who f*ed off because they “didn’t want to be stuck here.”

  9. Posted by The Old Trapper on

    Here in (Ottawa) Ontario we are just going to go into the stay-at-home portion of our never ending lock down. We’re not supposed to go out except for groceries, medical necessities, essential work, or possibly some exercise which is still allowed. This starts Thursday at 12:01 am.
    Of course IIRC Premier Ford was “caught” early in the pandemic having family gatherings when he was telling everyone else to not have contact with anyone outside of your immediate family.
    And of course Ontario politicians have been almost as bad as Alberta politicians when it comes to vacationing outside the country over Christmas.
    Is it any wonder that Ontario had it’s highest ever number of infections on this past Sunday, and every day last week was worse then the one before? Did the Premier’s one week notice on shutting down Toronto (thus driving everyone to the suburbs to shop for Christmas) have anything to do with these numbers, or was it just waiting until after Christmas dinner was over to go into a province wide lockdown that did it?
    Here’s a lesson for Premier Savikataaq, if you want your Ministers and Executives to follow orders you have to tell them in simple language – you cannot go south (for Christmas) unless you get it in writing from me ahead of time. If you don’t you lose your job. Plain, simple, even a two year old would understand.
    And if you tell your Ministers, Executives, and all your other employees not to do something, don’t you dare to do it yourself or everyone will think that they can just ignore what you say. For proof I give you the entire province of Ontario (myself excepted of course).
    Now if our brain dead Ontario Premier had a real meaningful lockdown back in the spring we might just have spent most of 2020 Covid-19 free. Even without that we came close. Would you believe that on 11AUG20 Ontario reported only 33 new cases (and our 7 day average was 81 cases). This past Friday Ontario had 3,945 new cases (and a 7 day average of 3,546 cases).
    Anyone want to trade Premiers, we’ll throw in a Health Minister too! Heck take them all!

    • Posted by Get real on

      The politicians including the premier depend completely and utterly on senior management. I mean some could not even schedule a meeting if left alone, they can’t run the territory.
      So what if managers say fire me then? The GN is not the Ontario government where jobs are scarce and sought after with high levels of competition. These people cannot be replaced easily here.
      The GN is soon to face a exodus of workers and managers if a solution to being cut off from the world is not soon found . The territory will suffer for it. I know many senior management employees, from deputy ministers to mid level managers who have had about enough and have offers to work elsewhere or will coming soon. The premier won’t do anything about non essential travel because they know how screwed they’ll be without the stewards of the territory who have been steering this ship in the background.
      I for one have several job offers lined up and will be leaving with my skills and expertise if I don’t hear from public health by March that they’ll give vaccine passports to avoid the quarantine hubs or allow people an option to isolate at home like the rest of the country always has.
      Enjoy Ontario, where despite lock downs and restrictions you can get into a car and drive 500km to go hiking or whatever you like. Take out and food deliver make it life easy. For us, we have been looking at the same wasteland since last year and being stuck in this small town without a winter break is taxing.

      • Posted by Almost Had Me on

        Get Real you almost had me agreeing with you until you said “we have been looking at the same wasteland since last year and being stuck in this small town without a winter break is taxing.” First off if you think Nunavut is a wasteland then we will be much better off without you in Sr Management if you are indeed as important as you claim. This is often the case those with Senior GN staff is the comments and side remarks they make about how much they dislike the territory or feel trapped. I for one feel lucky to be welcomed to live and work in Nunavut. I am grateful to have a job, a warm home, food in the fridge and the ability to FaceTime with family in the south. We have it really good here as people with jobs in Nunavut compared to those without. Good luck in your career in the south, as I think we will be better off because no matter how good you are at your job, that kind of attitude will drag down an entire department and community!

        • Posted by Bye on

          Typical Nunavut attitude of getting upset when people state the obvious – People do not move here for a lifestyle improvement. Nunavut really can’t afford to keep saying ‘don’t like it, leave’. The government isn’t even 2/3 staffed as is. It can only get worse from here.

  10. Posted by Big Shocker on

    This only becomes an issue because a city councillor raises it on Twitter. The premier is spineless and will hold nobody accountable. The senior staff will continue to get paid while in isolation and nobody will be the wiser. The Premier should be challenging all his senior staff. Did Minister Kusugak question his senior staff for leaving? Maybe that’s why so many from CGS took advantage and left for vacation, they figure all ministers are the same.
    I totally understand people wanting to see family but why does it work for only the chosen.

  11. Posted by Northern Southie on

    I am hearing alot of people saying these people who left should be punished!!..but travel down south is not forbidden, it is not recommended, so they are basically urging people to not travel but by no means able to punish them for doing so, everyone has there own reasons for wanting to leave for a few weeks and as long as they follow the public health measures(isolation) that is just fine by me!!

  12. Posted by Leese Papatsie on

    As a northerner, I really somewhat want to believe their reasoning to how many and why their Senior staff went south, I have a hard time believing this. When that Department is advising us NOT to travel, and their staff travelled, who are we suppose to believe? For the most part, I have really really trusted the GN in this pandemic, but if it is not real for their staff, why would I believe it now? This is bullshit, I am really disappointed in their staff and I guess that department.

  13. Posted by vacation on

    truthfully, I have a pile of leave built up and as soon as I get the 2nd part of the vaccine (Should be around February 20th) I am taking 4 weeks and heading south. Sure I’ll isolate but I was worried about getting Covid down south now I’m not.
    I can guarantee people have already started booking their spring break travel. In Rankin it’s the first week of April and you’ll see a mass exodus that week and quarantining the 2 weeks after. Especially since I still don’t have to pay for those 2 weeks.

  14. Posted by Name withheld on

    I do not wish to know where these people went to during the holidays but the fact of the matter is ADM, Directors of such departments went out , I can understand medical but aside from that is no excuse!!

    I believe there was a comment before where we heard the members of legislative weren’t required to isolated, one comment asked how is their immune system better than the rest of us?

    Now I am asking the same how are our love ones any less than the ADM or Directors who left for family reasons ?

    We are all wishing this Covid thing was over and get back to our normal day before virus entered into Canada, our annual travel south or within Nunavut is stoped!!! While the rest of us are abiding the rules given to us in regards to NO essential travel, stay home and stay safe. Our leadership within the GN are taking this as another BS and traveling.

    Why isn’t the GN following the NWT? Where if they travel for non essential they are responsible for their own isolation!!

  15. Posted by Red on

    Staff get told to stay while the bosses go south and play. And you wonder why there’s so much toxicity, resentment, and turnover among workers in the GN.

    • Posted by Whyudum on

      Well said

  16. Posted by eskimo joe on

    I sure put up a lot to stay safe and for the safety of my fellow beings in over half a year; I couldn’t even fart without hamlet say so, so why is Hay Plan (if still call that) ppl have special privileges’? is there different rules and classes in Nunavut now? I am just a little guy so why are the senior gn officials better than I am?

  17. Posted by Qikiqtaalummiu on

    we need to boot them out of the office and teaching.this has caused a lot of different distractions and governance we need people whom will work with the people not the visitors. Including premier they all wen out and about just thinking of them self not others.t

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