Nunavut’s new Public Health Act comes into effect

New act replaces previous legislation from Northwest Territories

George Hickes, Nunavut’s health minister, speaks in the legislative assembly in May 2019. The Department of Health’s new Public Health Act became law on Jan. 1 this year, four years after passing in the legislative assembly. (File photo)

By Emma Tranter

Nunavut’s new Public Health Act became law in the territory on Jan. 1, replacing the previous act carried over from the Northwest Territories.

The new legislation modernizes the territory’s health system and recognizes the unique needs of Nunavummiut, says a news release from Nunavut’s Department of Health.

“Having a made-in-Nunavut Public Health Act will improve our government’s ability to protect Nunavummiut from disease and other health hazards,” Health Minister George Hickes said in the release.

“The new act modernizes our public health legislation to ensure processes in place to keep Nunavummiut safe and healthy, ensuring Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit are the legislation’s guiding principles,” Hickes said.

The new act, passed in the legislative assembly in Nov. 2016, establishes measures related to health protection and promotion, population health assessment, public health surveillance, disease and injury prevention, and public health emergency preparedness.

It also requires the minister to prepare an annual report that includes “reportable events, outbreaks, public health emergencies and number of inspections under this act during the year,” the act states.

The report must be completed within six months of the end of each calendar year and tabled in the legislative assembly during the first sitting after the report is prepared.

Under the new act, the health minister will also appoint a chief public health officer, formerly known as the chief medical officer.

The new act also gives the chief public health officer the power to disclose inspection reports to the public.

Under the previous act, inspection reports were not publicly available. Nunavut is the only province or territory in the country where this is the case.

“The chief public health officer may, in accordance with the regulations, disclose and make public inspection reports or ratings in respect of inspected premises,” the new act states.

Health inspections are conducted at approximately 1,000 facilities across the territory each year, typically twice annually. Any facilities that prepare or sell food to the public are subject to those inspections, from restaurants to mine sites, to hospital cafeterias and school breakfast programs.

Last year, the department began moving to an electronic system for filing food establishment inspection reports.

The new act also outlines requirements for food and water safety, sanitation, and reporting on and responding to communicable diseases.

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(9) Comments:

  1. Posted by iWonder on

    “The new act modernizes our public health legislation… ensuring Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit [is] the legislation’s guiding principle…” Hickes said.

    This is the preamble and the qualifying statement we see with so much policy and legislation in Nunavut, but I often suspect that it has come to hold no real meaning beyond a rote platitude. Which is not to say IQ itself is meaningless, only that it has become a secular koan, analogous to a religious rite recited to invoke a secret magic found in the spirits of the past, as if doing so will ensure success.

    I wonder, does anyone else notice this?

    • Posted by uWonder? on

      not to be that indigenous person, but this comment sounds very colonial lol just use normal wording and say it out loud that you feel our IQ’s are over used/over stated. ALSO what youre saying IS kind of degrading and offensive to our culture, “analogous to a religious rite recited to invoke a secret magic found in the spirits of the past, as if doing so will ensure success.” like nah bruh we include our IQ values to instill a methodology that 85% of nunavummuit (85% of our population is Inuit) have used culturally since the beginning of our oral history NOT to use “some secret magic” to ensure success. All in all, dont be a donkey.

      • Posted by iWonder on

        To uWonder;
        My comment wasn’t meant to denigrate IQ. I think you’ve missed my point: to me it seems the ritual use of statements that invoke IQ (see above) have become a form of spectacle. The purpose, it appears, is to confer legitimacy on policy positions by invoking cultural ‘bone fides’.
        This to me seems like the real offense against Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit.
        As Silas suggests, we should see the substance to these statements, otherwise the concept begins to lose meaning. A bit like ‘colonial’ does when used haphazardly to describe every idea uttered by a non-Inuk. 😉

    • Posted by Silas on

      iWonder, I agree with you. The government continues to use these words with no real meaning, other than to show that the legislation or otherwise are Nunavut documents; as if they use these words they will be accepted more readily by those who don’t bother to read the documents. If they used Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit as the guiding principle then they should, at least, state which of (the) Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit are used directly in the legislation and what qualifies that principle as the basis for that portion of the legislation.

  2. Posted by Tim Horton on

    I’m looking forward seeing the inspection reports for the Iqaluit Tim Horton and the two Quick Stop facilities. If the inspections would have been completed, or actually performed with open eyes, none of the three places would be still aloud to operate until the filthiness have been rectified. It is disgusting!
    I’m not quite believing that inspections are completed as per proper procedures and standards. This is also true for at many kitchens in Nunavut hotels. Be it dirt, unsafe food storage or handling, sanitation procedures and garbage disposal methods

    • Posted by What Health Inspection? on

      Same thing with the Northern in Rankin Inlet. So many health violations it’s scary. There is no way a real health inspector has ever been there.

  3. Posted by Putuguk on

    The new public health act establishes sweeping new powers for health officials such as regulating the handling of dead bodies, apprehending (arresting and detaining) persons who pose a health hazard, search and seizure provisions, and some new specified hefty fine and jail time provisions. It is the same old “us versus them” reactive approach to governance that we have always seen.

    It could very well be that the Government of Nunavut requires these powers in order to ensure the health of our population. But it is hard to believe that things like contracting diseases from burying loved ones or refusing treatment are really burning issues up here.

    Whatever the case, there is really nothing in the Act that I could see that really speaks to following our social values. Unless the reference to IQ in the Act has something to do with giving the Minister the political out of ignoring the law when Inuit complain about what his/her officials are doing.

    For example, someone may have be found to have TB. They may want to remain in their home community and house. Under this new Act, Public Health Officials can now disagree and arrest that person and bring that person somewhere else for treatment. This is pretty well what has happened to Inuit for decades and has lead to some big problems for us. How is that using Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit?

    Now if the government would really follow our values instead of providing for heavy handed actions, a practical and common sense public health approach to things like TB would be to make it an offence to house Nunavut residents like sardines in a can which causes TB in the first place.

    • Posted by Agree on

      I agree with your concerns and the point of view approach. I however have a different argument to your last paragraph. It is not the Government that places you in houses, it is not the Government that causes overcrowded housing, it is the choice of Nunavummiut to have children. I’m not talking about having one, two or three children, I’m referring to the families where the number of children exceeds this. There is no income, there are no financial means to support the kids and of course there is, nor will there ever be enough social housing. Three generations living under one roof, in a small unit is guaranteed to become the root issues for illnesses. Can it be expected that the Government provides housing for all Nunavummiut for (basically) free? I believe this is the understanding of many

      “Now if the government would really follow our values instead of providing for heavy handed actions, a practical and common sense public health approach to things like TB would be to make it an offence to house Nunavut residents like sardines in a can which causes TB in the first place.”

      • Posted by Interesting Thoughts on

        This is an interesting and useful critique that shows the importance of language, specifically how choice of words affects perceptions around causal relationships, and of course we know much follows from that.

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