The Dene Nation has announced that a major conference on education planned for this week on the Hay River Reserve has been postponed due to concerns about COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.
A March 11 news release stated that the Dene Nation Education Summit, scheduled for March 17 & 18, was being postponed as a precautionary measure because of the spread of COVID-19, which was declared a global pandemic earlier that day by the World Health Organization.
The postponement was recommended by Chief April Martel of K’atlodeeche First Nation.
“Although there are no confirmed cases in the Northwest Territories and the risk remains low, it is important we remain vigilant as cases continue to rise across Canada,” said Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya in the news release. “We will continue to monitor the situation and plan for a future date where Dene Nation leadership can gather as we move forward on our shared vision for Dene education in the North.”
In a Facebook post, Martel thanked Yakeleya for “respecting my decision” on the safety of communities.
In comments to Northern News Services in Yellowknife, Yakeleya said the Dene Nation wants to be on the safe side and vigilant.
“And Chief April Martel advised us to postpone the educational summit and to start to look at community response plans, because many of our people travel to meetings on our behalf,” he said.
Dene Nation leadership will closely monitor the situation with COVID-19 and the summit will be held when it’s safe to do so, he said, although he couldn’t speculate on possible future dates.
Based on a need for more training, cultural and language-based education, and mental health supports to ensure a strong foundation for youth to excel, the summit was to engage Dene leadership and work to develop a shared vision for Indigenous education in the NWT.
More than 60 people were scheduled to attend the Dene Nation’s first-ever Education Summit, including several keynote speakers.
– with files from Blair McBride