Western Nunavut town moves to enforce COVID-19 bans

New peace officers provide education, warnings

Kugluktuk’s new badge-wearing peace officers enforce, among other things, Nunavut’s Public Health Act order that restricts mass gatherings. From left: Timothy St. Croix, Bob Appatok and student Triste Leyte. (Photo courtesy of the Kugluktuk Peace Officers)

By Jane George

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.

Kugluktuk’s new badge-wearing peace officers enforce, among other things, Nunavut’s Public Health Act order that restricts mass gatherings. (Photo courtesy of the Kugluktuk Peace Officers)

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.

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(17) Comments:

  1. Posted by Greg on

    Will warnings and tickets be given out to teachers today gathering in schools? Too many educational staff gathering today all across the territory.

  2. Posted by Courage Under Pressure on

    Because it seems that Joanasie lacks leadership ability and the courage to make a strong decision.

  3. Posted by Alice on

    Give these brave young men some batons or something to defend themselves with ’cause they could meet with some resistance. Good luck & stay safe.

  4. Posted by What about the Beer and Wine line up? on

    It’s sad to see the hundreds of government alcoholics lining up without any social distancing and for some reason they are exempt from these government enforcement measures. Why are these people so special? As a citizen I question why am I being asked to sacrifice family visits while these government alcoholics ignore the rules at a Government of Nunavut store.

  5. Posted by gamoiik on

    shouldn’t be entering people’s houses without a warrant, epidemic or not, that is flat out wrong

  6. Posted by Reality on

    Absolutely right. Warrants are protection. Letting people be able to enter freely your family and children’s house. That poses more danger than good. Claiming to be for peace! Where are the civil right lawyers when you need one.

    And for what, giving up rights because people in another providence have influenza while not 1 case in Nu. Lost rights and curfues to ‘ get people ready’. The fact that people in hamlets are allowing this is very north Korean.

  7. Posted by Jimmy on

    Entering a home without a warrant is clearly un-constitutional. You’re also allowed to have as many people in your own home as you like. There is no LAW that says otherwise.

    These by-law “officers” have always wanted to be real cops, and now COVID-19 has given them the opportunity.

    The REAL police are smart enough to stay out of this mess and let the Hamlets/By-Law abuse your rights.

    • Posted by Record Everything on

      Just make sure that you record every single interaction with them to use later.

      Remember that Canada is a one-party consent state, and that if you are a participant in the conversation you don’t need anyone else’s permission to record.

  8. Posted by Disgruntled on

    Encouraging people to rat out their neighbors to the government? What is this? Soviet Russia?

    • Posted by Sickening officer behavior on

      These Offices are in way over their heads as they are violating civil liberties of Canadian residents. They have no business in illegally entering peoples homes.

      They should be sued for their illegal practices.

      • Posted by Tricky, but not Dicky on

        No, such laws are allowed under article one of the charter. But, these folks do need to be very careful that there is a credible threat to public health if they use that authority. If it is for any other reason then it gets tricky.

        • Posted by Ain’t possible according to liberties association on

          My defence if ticketed is the non social distancing allowed on the government beer store every other day we see pictures. Government allows this gathering of hundreds of people at their facility so I should be allowed to have a small gather in my own home if I so choose with no cases of the virus so far.

          • Posted by Reasonable Steps on

            Yup, that is something that you could certainly try. However, the failure of the alcohol store manager to enforce the regulations doesn’t mean that you are exempt from following them.

            However, if I were the manager of the booze shop I would be quite concerned if it could be shown that I didn’t take reasonable steps.

  9. Posted by Harol Evers on

    Were besides Nunavut would entry into inviduals dewllings be allowed with out a properly issued warrant. Giveing local by law officers this kind of authority is dangerous. Not only are civil laws being broken but also criminal law.

    • Posted by Bog Standard on

      Ummm, all of Canada, particularly when a public health emergency has been called.

      There is nothing special, or unique, about this provision of Nunavut’s PHE law.

      Might want to work on our MLAs to get this law changed, but for the time being, it is bog standard and completely unremarkable.

      You ought to compare it to Alberta’s. You’d think that we are in a libertarian paradise by comparison.

  10. Posted by Uvaa on

    Councils need to educate themselves to what jurisdiction they have, also to take responsibility for bylaw officer actions.

    Check actions from past.

    Wash hands, stay 6 feet apart.

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