A check stop set up outside the community of Fort Resolution, N.W.T. has screened over 45 cars in the last 24 hours, community leadership said.
The check stop was put in place Friday afternoon after a post on Fort Resolution’s Deninu Kue First Nation Facebook page from Chief Louis Balsillie suggested that the N.W.T.’s most recent case of COVID-19 was in Fort Resolution.
“We’ll do everything in our power to keep this out of our community,” Balsillie told CBC Saturday.
The territorial government does not identify the location of confirmed cases when they appear in small communities, to protect patient privacy. But on Friday, MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh Steve Norn confirmed Balsillie’s post that the individual was in Fort Resolution and had since been medevacked to Stanton Territorial Hospital in Yellowknife.
A release sent Thursday night from the Chief Public Health Officer, Kami Kandola, said an individual had violated public health orders to self-isolate in designated centres and continued on to their home in an unspecified “small community.”
Since discovering the latest case was from his community, Balsillie says the First Nation hired six people to man the check stop located on the only road into the community, Highway 6. Every vehicle is stopped and questioned, he said.
As of 8 a.m. Saturday, 47 vehicles had been checked, the majority of them being community members returning from getting groceries in neighbouring Hay River, Balsillie said.
“What’s your business in Fort Resolution? If you’re not from here and you’re not supplying the groceries or the gas or the central stuff coming in to fix people’s houses, then there’s no need for you to be here,” he said.
Balsillie said workers don’t have the authority to prevent anyone from entering the community, but have been instructed to tell non-community members who are not visiting family or providing essential services that they are not welcome.
“We know who’s who, right? We know you live in Hay River, we know you have parents, grandpas and grannies in the community… you’re ok to come in,” Balsillie said.
“What we’re saying is if you’re gonna come in from Alberta and you have no use in the community … we’re saying no. Turn around and go back to wherever you come from.”
Other communities in the N.W.T. have implemented similar policies. The K’atl’odeeche First Nation near Hay River set up their own check stops March 20. Anyone entering the First Nation, either by the all-season road or the ice road, will have to show a security guard proof of band membership.
Gov’t refused request for check stop: chief
Balsillie said he approached the territory’s department of Municipal and Community Affairs (MACA) two weeks ago, asking if a check stop could be set up on the road into the community.
Balsillie said the department refused his request, saying setting up a check-stop was outside of the First Nation’s authority. After finding out there was a case in his community, he did it anyway, he said.
No one from MACA was immediately available to comment.
Balsillie also criticized the level of enforcement by the territorial government when it came to ensuring people returning from other jurisdictions were self isolating in designated areas, where medical services are easier to come by.
“What really bothers me is the government put this into place. They said ‘ok, we’re going to put a road block at the border.’ … Where’s the follow-up from the government?” he asked. “I want to make sure that lady or that man went into isolation in Hay River.
“If not, let’s find them and let’s bring them back there,” he said.
In a press conference Saturday, Premier Caroline Cochrane suggested the territory would be implementing tougher enforcement and tighter restrictions, but didn’t provide specific details.