Nunavut’s 14-day isolation hubs ‘offside the law and the latest science,’ says civil liberties watchdog

‘The measures as they currently stand are not proportionate and must be revised,’ CCLA says

Since early in the pandemic, the majority of people travelling into Nunavut have had to spend two weeks in isolation hubs, such as this one in Winnipeg, before being allowed into the territory. (Image courtesy of tourismwinnipeg.com)

By Dustin Patar

The Canadian Civil Liberties Association says that the Government of Nunavut’s rules for people wishing to enter the territory “are offside the law and the latest science.”

The CCLA wrote on Wednesday to Health Minister Lorne Kusugak and the territory’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, expressing its concerns about Nunavut’s requirement that most people spend two weeks in an isolation hub before entering the territory.

“The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees mobility rights and these rights can only be limited in a manner that is both reasonable and demonstrably justified,” says the letter.

“The measures as they currently stand are not proportionate and must be revised.”

Since March 23 last year, anyone entering Nunavut, except for critical workers and others with a letter of exemption, must complete a 14-day isolation period in one of the territory’s southern isolation hubs in Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton or Yellowknife.

The issue for the CCLA is that those hubs have not changed since then.

“Although the mandatory hotel isolation may have been justified at a certain point in time, our collective understanding of the virus has evolved significantly,” CCLA’s letter says.

“COVID-19 is no longer a new or unknown virus and governments across the country must be engaged in a continual process of review to ensure that the measures they have put in place balance the risk posed by COVID-19 with other important interests.”

Last week, the federal COVID-19 Testing and Screening Expert Advisory Panel recommended that adjustments be made to federal quarantine requirements. The CCLA says in its letter that provinces and territories also need to consider these changes.

One recommendation made by the advisory panel was that a shortened seven-day isolation period with a test on the seventh day might be similarly effective to a 14-day isolation period.

The advisory panel also recommended different testing and isolation requirements based on an individual’s vaccination status.

The CCLA letter highlights that this recommendation “would eliminate the self-isolation requirement for those who are fully vaccinated and receive a negative test result on arrival in the country.”

This is not the first time that the civil liberties watchdog has expressed concern over some of Nunavut’s pandemic-related public health orders.

In April 2020 it called the territory’s open-ended ban on gatherings “unconstitutional.”

The order allowed for entries into homes without warrants under certain circumstances to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Days later, the GN revised its COVID-19 public health orders to clarify circumstances where gathering is permitted.

The Government of Nunavut’s response to the current letter is not likely to be as fast.

In an interview with Nunatsiaq News on Thursday afternoon, Kusugak said that he wasn’t surprised to see the letter and that it will not affect any process.

“We have a plan and we’ll stick to our plan,“ he said.

“We have to protect Nunavummiut first and foremost and that is, unfortunately, the best defence.”

Patterson agreed.

“From day one we acknowledged that all of the public health measures, they all have their downside,” he said.

“But right now, there’s still that benefit of protecting those people who haven’t been able to get vaccinated yet.”

Kusugak added that if the hubs weren’t in place, there would be multiple outbreaks in multiple communities across the territory.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do what we’ve done,” he said.

Earlier this week, Patterson said that broader reopening plans, as seen in other jurisdictions around the country, can probably be expected within the next week or two, adding that it depends a lot on what happens in Iqaluit over that time period.

The Government of Nunavut is scheduled to hold a COVID-19 news briefing on Friday.

With files from Mélanie Ritchot

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(51) Comments:

  1. Posted by About Time! on

    Great to state the obvious ! Nunavut has a great vaccination rate among people that qualify and yet the GN still expects people to isolate in the hotels. No home isolation coming from outside, yet people that come to Iqaluit can home isolate in their own communities and their own homes ?
    Adapt GN,Nunavut have suffered enough.

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  2. Posted by Stay The Course on

    I believe, right now and for the summer months, stay the course. Perhaps CLA does not fully understand out health center situations in communities outside Iqaluit. Personally, I have been lucky enough and have not had to travel outside Nunavut since the pandemic started so I have no had to isolate. That said, should I have go south for any reason, I will gladly isolated for the 14 days to keep my family, kids and community members, who may not be able to take the vaccine, safe. Want to get a little normalcy? Get vaccinated. I have received the vaccine, it is safe. Stop listen to social media and founded claims. If you’re worried about being “tracked” through the vaccine, you might as well get rid of cell phones and internet services devices, these can be tracked.

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    • Posted by Alan Klie on

      But they’re not advocating dropping the isolation hubs entirely, only making exceptions for those fully vaccinated. The science shows that fully vaccinated people are very unlikely to catch or pass on the virus. The vaccines are also effective against the variants. There’s simply no need for fully vaccinated individuals to be required to isolate in a hub for 14 days. Even with the current outbreaks, we haven’t seen our health centres and limited health resources overwhelmed and at this point I don’t think there’s a chance that’s going to happen.

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      • Posted by Bob the Builder on

        Ahhh, Lorne, the great defender of our rights & freedoms….not! My mother-in-law just returned from Brazil after getting stuck there for the pandemic. She was fully vaccinated before leaving Brazil and tested negative before leaving Sao Paulo. She then isolated for 3 days in a hotel in Toronto, while waiting to get her test result (negative). She got another test a week after she was at home. No problems or issues. So, obviously Nunavut needs to update their protocols! Apparently, they do not have a process in place for rapid testing, and no updated protocols on fully vaccinated residents wanting to travel in conjunction with rapid testing. Just plain common sense and logic backed by science Lorne, not staying the course with a process that is now bordering on infringing our rights and freedoms! Get your head out of the uujuq pot Lorne!

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      • Posted by Stay The Course on

        The chance of getting COVID for a fully vaccinated person are very unlikely but still possible. Although very unlikely to spread the virus, still possible. If people want to travel south, they can travel south. They’re just be selfish and wanting to travel without having to isolate. Use annual leave and isolate in the south, do what they want for a week or so and isolate the 14 days before coming back to Nunavut.

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        • Posted by Alan Klie on

          You can say that anything is still possible. It’s still possible that the vaccine will cause mutations in the blood and turn us into zombies; I’m being sarcastic for effect. We have to be smart and scientific about this. The science says that the fully vaccinated are virtually no danger to themselves or others. The other thing is that you can’t argue with results. Even in our unvaccinated outbreaks our health centres have not been overwhelmed nor has our vulnerable population been decimated. We simply haven’t seen any devastating results from the outbreaks we’ve had. That is in no way to diminish the loss of 4 or 5 of our fellow Nunavummiut who have succumbed to the pandemic but taking the situation was a whole, we’ve done alright and I don’t see any realistic or reasonable chance that there’s going to be a devastating outbreak in Nunavut without the isolation hubs for fully vaccinated people.

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        • Posted by Adjust Course for Science on

          The risks being so incredibly low that the old fear mongering we have been hearing for A YEAR no longer sway many people. Base policy on science, not hyper vigilance. If it is safe to risk kids to go to school in our covid 19 infected capital (so parents can return to the office), it is worth minimal risk to allow the fully vaccinated to travel without 14 days in a hotel.

  3. Posted by How about honesty on

    How about Dr. Patterson, instead of saying essetially ‘well it’s too bad really’, actually engages with the science and explain to Nunavummuit why fully vaccinated people cannot either skip the hub or isolate at home. I expect more fr scientists than politicians who are ignorant of anything technical and speak talking points fed to them in a binder by political staff, but come on – you are a doctor and owe the public an explanation why. The US CDC has said that fully vaccinated people need not even mask! There is no consistency in Nunavut public health measures, the protocol has not even been updated since March 2020!

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    • Posted by Alan Klie on

      Totally agree with you and I can find no scientific reason why fully vaccinated individuals can’t skip isolation. Fully vaccinated people pose no risk to themselves or others.

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  4. Posted by Temp on

    So did the 14 day quarantine work? Did it keep covid out of the territories? Yeah, we k is the answer to that. And please do t give me that “it kept it out a long time” nonsense. IT DIDNT WORK.

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    • Posted by It came from CN on

      No, it came from the Canadian North Cargo bar stars who didn’t need to isolate and couldn’t follow orders.

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  5. Posted by Bert Rose on

    Let’s see.
    Isolation hotels became mandatory on March 23,2020.
    Nunavut stayed Covid free until November of 2020 in Arviat and then April 2021 in Iqaluit.
    And this organization in June 2021says we did it wrong?
    Dr Patterson and Minister Kusugak I believe you did it RIGHT. I would follow your instructions to a T any time without second guessers and their twaddle.

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    • Posted by Alan Klie on

      Yes, the hubs worked originally and we should all commend Dr. Patterson’s work on that but now the time has passed for their utility, at least as far as fully vaccinated individuals are concerned.

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    • Posted by Paul Murphy on

      I’m with Bert on this one
      The good doctor has kept us safe with his expert direction and like Bert I have received both shots, just finished 14 days in Yk after 2 – 15 minute appointments. The worse that happened was getting over fed. Thank you Dr Patterson etal.

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      • Posted by Alan Klie on

        Yes, the hubs worked back when the science was uncertain and when the vaccination rate was low/unavailable. I spent some time in isolation early in the year. Now, however, the science shows that they are unnecessary for fully vaccinated individuals and fully vaccinated individuals pose virtually no risk to themselves or others.

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      • Posted by Observation Post on

        You’re right, but that’s not the point though, Paul. The point is we are in a different phase now and should adjust ourselves to the new reality that comes with that vaccination.

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    • Posted by Twitchy Eye on

      I think a lot of people agree the hubs have been a good thing up until recently. It’s just now that everyone 18+ has had an opportunity to be vaccinated, having the hubs is both a waste of time and a waste of money.

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  6. Posted by Nemerode on

    The best defense is VACCINATION not isolation, by allowing a small minority to stubbornly not accept the vaccine, the majority has to pay the price.
    Vacine are effective and they are a proven method of control.
    the anti-vaxer are sandbagging all of us

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    • Posted by Allan Fraser on

      There is à price to be paid for respecting civil libertés.

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    • Posted by Allan Fraser on

      There is a price to be paid for respecting civil liberty. If we are unwilling to pay that price, we risk their loss.

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  7. Posted by Rita on

    first rapid covid 19 test is done first day of isolation, why not send patients back home first negative result ? 14 days is too long of a wait especially with family waiting back home, and a lot of working parents miss out of regular paying job because they have to wait for the intended time of isolation, negative results should be sent home and so many people abuse their addictions with alcohol and drugs and rules are never followed and always broken and people who drink have to reisolate for being drunk and yet they had negative results from covid 19 rapid testing

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  8. Posted by tuktuborel on

    Nunavut is not Iqaluit. We are a big territory! It is time to make adjustments to the 14 day isolation for fully vaccinated people. Testing is readily available. If people can fly in from outside Canada, take a test and isolate for up to 3 days waiting for their results and if negative go on their merry way, why can’t we. The current 14 days is just not required anymore, very expensive and very tiring. And likely illegal too as it is unconstitutional.
    Lets see some rethinking on this current 14 day requirement , now!

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    • Posted by Seriously? Quit whining! on

      The rest of Canada’s cases are still GROWING!! And you want to change the rules so you can travel? There are and were plenty of Inuit who were either travelling for work or medical travel and so were not or are not able to get the vaccines yet. You cannot be that ignorant to not come to those considerations of others and knowing we have many children who still will not be able to get vaccinated for a very long time, I would LOVE to travel at whim too but hey. I have kids to consider and they go to school so not only would I be putting my kids at risk but I would be risking other peoples children too….. It is what it is and the rules in place have helped our people to not devastate our population or our healthcare system.

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      • Posted by Alan Klie on

        Where are you getting your numbers? It’s true that there are still new cases but the RATE of infection is DECLINING fairly rapidly and has been so for some time.

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    • Posted by Everything Iqaluit on

      Kitikmeot Region has never had any cases of Covid. NWT has 0 cases of Covid. But if a fully vaccinated person needs to travel to Yellowknife for medical? Two weeks isolation.
      .
      I supported the hubs for a very long time. But it’s time for a revision.

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  9. Posted by Time to Change on

    Interesting that we are still protecting “those that havent had the chance to be vaccinated yet”. Every NU community has now had this opportunity and in fact all visitors to the territory are eligable as well. People need to travel for a number of reasons including family committments, eductaion, work, and so many other essential reasons. Why are southerners essential but Nunavummiut must use up holiday days just to get home. Time to make some changes to ease restrictions for those of us playing by the rules!

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  10. Posted by Jayko Palongayak on

    Stay the course.. 95% of southern part of Canada don’t know where Nunavut is and dont know we only have one Hospital for this vast region of Canada. If the civil liberty lawyers want to challenge the Inuit Laws. Let them as we to have our own rights. Thanks minister Kusugak and Doctor Peterson for our well being.

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    • Posted by John K on

      Inuit laws?! Wow …

      If we’re doing the whole ethno-nationalist then I can’t get out of here fast enough.

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  11. Posted by Frank on

    An un-intended but serious consequence of the 14-day isolation requirement is that a significant number of fully-vaccinated medical patients who need diagnostics are choosing to forego their treatment until the 14-day requirement is lifted. Who wants to spend two-weeks, alone, in a hotel room? It’s not only an infringement of a person’s rights, it is totally unnecessary and very expensive.

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  12. Posted by stressed about wasted time on

    The federal hub (to enter the country from outside of Canada) is 3 days at the most. Shorten our Nunavut entry hubs to the same. I also wanted to clarify is Nunavut paying for these hubs out of its own pockets or borrowing money from daddy Canada to do so? If it is the latter, it’s time to cut the allowance. If Nunavut wants to continue to waste the time of the fully vaccinated, it should do so out of its own pocket.

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  13. Posted by No choice on

    By the looks of the commentary on Nunatsiaq and Facebook articles the government isolation hub program is about to be overwhelmed because Nunavummuit have had enough and are taking holidays.

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  14. Posted by Shahab on

    A large group of people that I came across last year did not have to isolate a single day before going to Nunavut, health care workers, RCMPs, government officials, fire fighters, flight crews etc. It was a matter of time before we see virus in Nunavut, we all knew and acknowledge this fact. However allowing general population travel freely with the virus was also not an option to the government as well. So far the GN has done relatively a good job or at least until the recent outbreaks.

    But going forward with all the doses of vaccines available to Nunavut residence and fully vaccinated people/travellers and many testing options (PCR testing before heading to Nunavut and rapid testing upon arrival), I wonder why wouldn’t the GN is not looking for a new phase a new plan that should work and balance people’s health and socio-economic. We all know that we can’t be living like this forever.

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  15. Posted by Long time resident on

    I will do the hub because I have to but it makes no sense. I’m fully vaccinated but my kids are not able to get the vaccine. I go south for the summer because it is the only time my kids and I can see my mother as she is too old to travel.

    When we are south, the only people we see are my mother and brother. Until we get to the hubs. Suddenly we are in a large box with a thousand other people. Guards and workers are every where, touching our belongings, touching our food, walking past us unmasked…it’s scary. I have young kids, they need space, they need fresh air, I can’t just keep them cooped up for 14 days. But the increased risk of contracting Covid from those hubs is frightening. It’s much safer to isolate at home, where there are less people, more accessible open space, and a support network to help get groceries etc. It’s time to make a change.

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  16. Posted by bob on

    The message from the CCLA is falling upon deaf, stubborn ears.
    Lorne does not adapt nor does he listen. His bullheaded approach to any discussion stops all discussion. That kind of attitude is what’s wrong with any government messaging…stick to your position even in the face of overwhelming facts that state otherwise. Typical government think.

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    • Posted by Total Poseur on

      I kind of like Lorne in a way, but he really is no expert, and probably knows less than at least some of us commenting here. Though I do not pretend to be up to speed on everything either. As for the Minister, anything he says that feigns anything other than political authority is not likely to be coming from a place of serious reflection or understanding. Just know that.

  17. Posted by articrick on

    All of a sudden, everyone is virus expert. Reminds me of childhood years of those kids that think they know everything.

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    • Posted by Allan Fraser on

      If we ignore our responsibility to stay informed, we are whistling in the dark. If we try to communicate the result of our effort, we are speaking without authority. More circular reasoning. Some experts do say the measures have been cruel and ineffective. Try to keep an open mind and keep trying to research.

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    • Posted by ArticAndy on

      Thanks Rick, I’ll take the approach of the federal science table and the US Center for Disease control over the b string we have here. These guys cannot even manage contact tracing for under two hundred cases with a year to prepare. They don’t know why vaccinated people need to isolate or how to change policy.

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  18. Posted by MARS on

    Isolation hubs are great. Keep them going!

    -Southern Isolation Hub Hotel Owners

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  19. Posted by Oscare on

    The GN Health is doing a fine job so far. But the isolation rules should change now due the following: only 9 cases in Nunavut (Iqaluit), no new cases in what 5 days now, zero cases in YK and yet medical patients still have to isolate? The illegal searches being done is down right stupid and against out Civil Rights. I can understand about keeping booze outta the hotels and stuff to cut down on the partiers and potential RCMP calls, etc. , but the hotels are hurting the people who abide by the rules. Good responsible people who would like to enjoy a cold beer or two and or glass of wine r being punished for no reason. The isolating hubs did work, but it’s time to change the rules.

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  20. Posted by John K on

    I’ll be taking a leave of absence until the hubs are closed. I’ve been careful; I’ve been patient; I’ve been vaccinated. If the GN decides to keep these hubs going then such is their choice … but many of us are left reevaluating are place here.

    I came here because it was better than the south. If it doesn’t remain that way then I’ll change my plans accordingly. I have absolutely no sentimental attachment to any particular dirt and I’m happy to go where my material conditions are better.

  21. Posted by Nunavumiot on

    The isolation hub here in Edmonton is full of tourists , non essential workers in and out of this hub all day , Inuit here tests negative for COVID-19 and are put at even more risk of getting infected by all these people, guards do not practice safe distance protocols nor does any of them wear protective gloves and go maskless when escorting patients in and out of the hub for their cigarette breaks , our minister of health does not know about his position as he is and was never educated in that field and will never have a change in his approach what he think is safe. There have been an outbreak already in the beginning right here in the holiday inn isolation hub where WE INUIT ARE PUT HERE INTENTIONALLY BY THIS GOVERNMENT AND IS BREAKING THE LAW BY BREAKING THE CONSTITUTION BROUGHT FORTH BY THE CANADIAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS ACT .

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  22. Posted by Arctic inhabitants on

    We Inuit here isolating see and watch guards playing football and throwing frisbees with everyone else while they are on smoke breaks out side ! I have videos and pictures so. I don’t have to write a thousand words to prove it . Guards and all hub workers go in and out of this building freely and go in and out after they come out of the transit bus which have a designated stop just outside ! I think we all were better off in the residential schools. Telling the truth.

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  23. Posted by Isolated inuk from Nunavut on

    We Inuit are put on a risky stay here in Edmonton even we have tickets to return but we’re confiscated and forced to isolation as we even are fully vaccinated too. $ 4099.00 for one person for 14 days that should at least for them be a money grab. Two of us here so add it up ! Yet we are treated uncivilized and be fed in a paper box all mashed and mixed up food that a canine would love but would you ? Not us ! we are a civilized ethnicity and are real human beings as well so why the world would we be treated that way ? Thanks a lot minister kusugak your luck is about to poke you over the next couple of days! A two cup limit of coffee a day is worst then all jails in the country combined in this isolation hub . Staying stoned as a rock now in this here so called isolation hub . Social dissent is real and alcohol and drug abuse is a way for everyone to cope the situation.

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  24. Posted by Arviat on

    If the nurses cant do the 14 days isolation why not all the individuals skip the isolation? Maybe that’s how covid was brought to arviat.. idk

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    • Posted by Baffin on

      So many ignorant people
      In this country of 🇨🇦
      Educate yourself and become a nurse.
      Can’t Fix Stupid

  25. Posted by true dat! on

    The hubs were warranted at the beginning of the pandemic but now it is just silly, padding the pockets of the shareholders of the big chain hotels, security companies, catering companies, etc. And to the tune of $94.2 million from March 2020-2021. Its probably more than $100 million now. This summer, GN might be processing way more isolation requests seeing everywhere in Canada it will mostly be opening for fully vaccinated travelers without quarantine, NU is still stuck on pandemic mode day 1.

  26. Posted by passing through edmonton to nunavut on

    wow is all I can say. cover tests were negative upon arrival so as our corona virus tests but will have to isolated , we are at risk of getting covid-19 from all the freedom workers down here free to go home and everywhere else in the city after their shifts are done, even the managers freely in and out and in contact with the outside world then bring it in to the hotel ! shuttle buses continue shuttling people from all over the world coming to this hotel, when we arrived we had suddenly took a rapid covid-19 test and tested negative, after check-in we were suddenly surrounded by guards and internal workers that where everywhere, touching our belongings, touching our food, walking by us unprotected and unmasked ! guards with no safety gloves too. We have for uncertainty been put on a health risk of contracting covid-19 in this isolation hub

  27. Posted by Yuppers on

    Hubba! Hubba! Love the free meals!

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  28. Posted by Forced to isolate on

    Security guards are doing illegal searches all the time breaking the law and intimidating Inuit people in their rooms in the Edmonton isolation hub. Alcohol is prevalent here. We are the lucky ones that do not take intimidation lightly as we are from the west – not east
    If they want to search ones room they need a warrant first in Canada .our rights and freedoms are in manifestation all the time here in this isolation hub and what they do is down right illegal. The management and security firm do not have any cross cultural training either and have no idea what they are doing .

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  29. Posted by Let’s be grateful on

    We all need to exercise some patience and faith in our leaders who I’m sure do not make these decisions easily.

    Do you understand how stretched your average understaffed Nunavut healthcare worker is already? – And this is even before Covid hit.

    I’m glad exceptions are made for nurses and other essential healthcare workers. We need them.

    Take the time and talk to them, and you’ll discover that they make their fair share of sacrifices, too.

    Thank you Dr. Patterson and Lorne Kusugak for all your long hours and taking the heat. You deserve our support and not our complaints in these times.

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