Rankin Inlet mayor says Arviammiut on layovers allowed into community

Radio broadcast advises those from Arviat and Winnipeg ‘don’t go visiting’ while in Rankin Inlet

Arviat Mayor Joe Savikataaq Jr., fourth from right, stands with elders before the start of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. (Photo courtesy of Joe Savikataaq Jr.)

By Jane George

The mayor of Rankin Inlet is defending a broadcast he made on local radio this week, saying he just wants to keep the community safe.

“If people are coming from Arviat, we recommend that they don’t go visiting when they are in town for a while,” Harry Towtongie said. “I have nothing against Arviat.”

Towtongie told Nunatsiaq News late Wednesday his advice to people in Rankin Inlet was to be “cautious and careful” when around people from Arviat and Winnipeg.

Many on social media interpreted Towtongie’s message differently. Word spread that passengers travelling from Arviat should remain in the air terminal and that hamlet bylaw officers would stop them if they tried to go into town.

Towtongie said he’s been pressured to do that, but Arviat residents have the right to come into town.

Rankin Inlet saw 19 cases of COVID-19 among its population of about 3,000 last year, while Arviat has been the hardest hit community in Nunavut, with 315 cases to date. Arviat and Rankin Inlet have roughly the same population.

Joe Savikataaq Jr., the mayor of Arviat, did not hear Towtongie’s radio message, but wanted to make it clear that Arviammiut have the right to go into town.

“People that go through Rankin do not pose any risk to the public,” he said. “If they posed any risk, they would not travel.”

Travel to and from Arviat continues to be restricted until the outbreak is over and, for now, all travellers need prior written permission to leave or enter the community.

“It’s not a free-for-all,” Savikataaq said. “You can absolutely not leave town if you pose risk to the public.”

No reason for fear

As of Thursday, there were 14 active cases of COVID-19 in Arviat, up by six from when Savikataaq spoke to Nunatsiaq News on Wednesday.

The local state of emergency, declared Feb. 24, has worked well, he said, and only one verbal warning has been issued to someone who wasn’t respecting the lockdown.

Arviat needs understanding and respect for its efforts, Savikataaq said, and there’s no need for Rankin Inlet’s residents to be afraid.

Savikataaq added the military doesn’t need to come to Arviat to assist with the community’s recovery, either.

That was suggested by Arviat North–Whale Cove MLA John Main last week as a way to help resolve overcrowding in homes and to supply relief to health workers.

Savikataaq said that option was discussed in the hamlet council back in November, but ultimately rejected.

Hotels are available for residents who need to isolate, he said, but they have not been used.

“We’re fine on our own. I don’t know what the military would do here. I hope they would buy carvings and wall hangings to support the local economy,” he said.

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(15) Comments:

  1. Posted by Sarah Anowtalik on

    Not all Arviamiut has the virus! So sick of reading this kind of thing, so sad. We are humans too😔☹️😭

    • Posted by JOE on

      from Arviat, it is the only way that it will stop. yes not all of us are sick. That is not the point. Stop visiting to protect others, protect yourself. Stay home, stay safe. Period.

  2. Posted by Tiffany on

    Travel out of Arv is very restricted. We apply for travel for any reason a week ahead of time. It is processed through the CPHO office and only when it is deemed safe to travel and there has been no contact, or possible contact, we get an approval letter. We cannot leave the community without an approval letter. No Arviarmiut would travel knowing they’ve been in possivle contact with someone with covid. We never ever want any community to go through what we are going through. We are not lepers

    • Posted by Carol on

      How is it deemed safe? Do the people that are traveling out get tested first before they travel?

  3. Posted by Stay Strong on

    Stay strong Arviat you will beat this again. You are right Sarah, you are humans and the world needs to have faith in humanity, be caring and support each other.
    You have a great Mayor, be thankful for that. I don’t recall hearing anything from Main other than get the military in. Hopefully next election you can get a real MLA that will respect the people as much as the Mayor does. Main is just grant standing and getting paid well for it. He should be coming forward with constructive solutions not copouts.
    Stay strong, listen to the Doctor and things will get better.

    • Posted by Janis napayok on

      Here we go again in a long ,loooooong controlled life. Arviatmiut please listen? I want to go visit someday it’s been 33 years since I haven’t gone home to the place were people are very very friendly, my heart is supporting you all! Keep strong be vigilant. And your efforts will pay off, look at it this way imagine the day you can go out again without a mask.

  4. Posted by Coutu-Autut on

    Being a resident of Rankin Inlet, I am glad to hear that people from Arviat passing through Rankin or staying overnight have been approved by the CPHO and I assume they have been tested first ( I hope) before they travel here.

    • Posted by Larry on

      I hope they are tested first before traveling through Rankin. With some that don’t show signs of having covid I assume too they are tested first.

  5. Posted by Arviat guess on

    Only Arviat and Winnipeg so people from Ontario Quebec Alberta BC are ok to go in to town?

  6. Posted by Name withheld on

    I think the GN should consider Arviat the Kivalliq Hub for all travel since so and so don’t want Arviat ppl in the community during layovers.

    Leaders choose your words carefully and be mindful of what you say. MLA Arviat North/Whale Cove …Like come on get real!! You aren’t the only one not traveling.

  7. Posted by Maybe Someone on

    The concern is controlling the spread of Covid-19. 10 new cases in Arviat today pretty much says it is out of control. Sanikiluaq, Whale Cove, Arviat and Rankin all had cases around the same time in November and only Arviat is still getting cases. we went through lockdown and don’t want to go through it again so if that means limiting Arviat travellers to the airport to ensure it doesn’t get into town then so be it. Or have anyone leaving Arviat quarantine for two weeks in Arviat just like they do in Winnipeg before travelling to Nunavut. That way we know people coming from Arviat are Covid free and they can then visit any Kivalliq community.

    • Posted by I agree on

      I agree with you maybe someone. Sad to see Arviat people roaming around when the world knows the community has active cases. As much as we are in support of people from Arviat, but also reading the cases still arising. Something should be done. Further restrictions required when other communities are pushing hard to keep the virus away.


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