Western Nunavut town moves to enforce COVID-19 bans
New peace officers provide education, warnings
Last week, the western Nunavut community of Kugluktuk’s bylaw officers, Timothy St. Croix and Bob Appatok, also became peace officers: a big part of their job now includes enforcing COVID-19 health restrictions.
The Public Health Act order restricting mass gatherings gives peace officers the right to enter a dwelling without a warrant when there is “a serious and immediate risk to public health.”
This past weekend, the two broke up a lot of card games and impressed many with their personal protective equipment.
“We went in with our PPE on, and it helps put it in perspective how huge the threat is,” St. Croix said from Kugluktuk.
The participants knew their big card-game gathering was wrong, St. Croix said, and many of those present scattered into rooms to hide.
Many in the community of about 1,600 haven’t changed their habits yet, he said, because Nunavut has not declared any cases of COVID-19 to date.
“When there are no cases, it’s a false sense of security,” he said.
St. Croix said this is why it’s even more important to get out there and educate people.
“That will help flatten the curve if it gets up here,” said St. Croix, who, before coming to Kugluktuk, worked as a security guard and served with the Canadian Armed Forces for two and a half years.
Recently the GN gave all Nunavut communities money to, if they choose, carry out more enforcement of COVID-19 measures.
On the new social media page for the Kugluktuk Peace Officers, the following message appears: “With regards to COVID-19 we are urging everyone to not have gatherings, card games, poker games even though they can be very fun. For the health and safety of the community please refrain from such activities until operations go back to normal.”
Last week, tenants of Nunavut’s 5,000 public housing units were also reminded to stop partying.
A letter signed by Nunavut’s housing minister, Patterk Netser, went out into tenants’ mailboxes reminding them that “all gatherings are banned” and that this includes gambling, an “illegal activity.”
The Nunavut Housing Corp. said tenants who breach this can expect a warning, or a notice to vacate the premises.
“It doesn’t matter if the gambling is legal or not—it’s the group gathering that is illegal,” Netser said.
“The current ban on public gatherings includes gatherings in people’s homes. This consists of any meeting where non-members get-together, whether at home or elsewhere … group gambling sessions mean that you are breaching the ban order.”
Netser urged everyone to “do our part by not socially gathering for any reason.”
So far, Kugluktuk’s new peace officers haven’t given out tickets, only warnings, to those at gatherings, but the peace officers could alert the local housing association if there are repeated gatherings in a unit.
They also help enforce the nightly curfew of 11 p.m. on weekdays and 12 a.m. at weekends.
Enforcing rules isn’t the only focus of the peace officers’ job: they have also handed out food hampers and gift cards as part of the hamlet’s relief effort.