We have to say we’re not big fans of community checkpoints against Covid-19.

So we are pleased to see that the checkpoints have come down on the Hay River Reserve.

You may wonder why we never commented about the reserve checkpoints while they were still standing. The simple answer is that K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) is the governing body on the reserve, and if it decided to erect checkpoints, who are we to say anything about that?

The same cannot be said for some other checkpoints in the NWT.

On the road to Fort Resolution, a checkpoint was set up by Deninu Ku’e First Nation – one of three local government organizations in the community. (Of course, we should note that the checkpoint was established after a case of Covid-19 was discovered in Fort Resolution.)

Some other organizations in various communities have decided against that somewhat unilateral action.

Chief David Poitras of Salt River First Nation in Fort Smith was recently asked about Facebook chatter on possibly setting up a checkpoint for that community, including by some members of his band. Poitras said he discouraged such an idea because those discussing it had no authority to do such a thing.

That’s one of the concerns we have about community checkpoints. People assume the right to stop others and turn them away from a community, which is a pretty drastic step if you think about it. And again, we’re not talking about KFN, which certainly has the right to decide who comes onto the reserve.

Likewise, we’re not talking about the GNWT’s checkpoints on entrances into the territory.

The checkpoint originally set up on Highway 1 at Enterprise and recently moved to the NWT/Alberta border has been set up by a government with the authority to do so.

Even so, we grumbled a bit when the checkpoint was set up at Enterprise because it interferes with the right of free travel that Canadians enjoy, but that objection almost seems quaint in this brave new world.

Actually, we should refer to the right to travel in the past tense. That right has been put to the side in jurisdictions around the world in this time of Covid-19, including the ability to travel between Canada and the United States.

Our main concern with community checkpoints is that they are largely symbolic, and would do little if anything to stop the spread of the coronavirus. That’s simply because residents of whatever community can come and go as they please, and potentially bring the virus back with them.

If the communities were really serious, they would allow residents to leave, but not permit them back until they go into 14 days of self-isolation. But could you imagine the outcry if that happened?

That’s what has apparently made the GNWT restrictions so effective. If you leave the NWT, you are treated like anyone else if you attempt to return, unless you are in a special category of traveller.

So while communities may set up checkpoints and make themselves feel better, the GNWT checkpoints at the border are what really matter.

Plus, the border checkpoints don’t set pit community against others in this fight against Covid-19. After all, we’re all in this together.

Still, we cringe when we see the checkpoint at the NWT/Alberta border.

We admit it offers protection, but it’s a symbol of our lost freedoms in this age of Covid-19.

Paul Bickford

Paul Bickford is the reporter for Hay River Hub.

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