The September election for Dene national chief could be postponed and the military may be called upon due to a severe COVID-19 outbreak in the Sahtu.

“We are basically fighting for our survival,” incumbent Dene National Chief Norman Yakeleya, who hails from the region, said on Aug. 19. “We are working with their leadership, and we are urgently, strongly, sending a message to the people to be safe, to help one another.”

The Dene Nation is implementing a “rapid response COVID team” to help deal with the situation, according to Yakeleya.

“Similar to what we did when the floods were impacting the [communities],” he said.

With the support of the chiefs, the Dene Nation is also pondering a request for military assistance, possibly in the form of the Canadian Rangers.

With health and security issues being the current top priority, Yakeleya may pause the upcoming Dene Nation annual general meeting and election, for which he’s already expressed interest in seeking another term.

“I have called a meeting of the grand chiefs to discuss the election date (and) the AGM, given the situation of COVID in our small communities,” said Yakeleya. “I would like to work with our leadership to see and assess the situation in terms of: do we go ahead with the election (and) AGM?”

Yakeleya urges communities to follow COVID-19 guidelines, including wearing masks and continuing to wash hands. As well, those feeling sick are asked seek help from appropriate clinics.

For those who test negative for the coronavirus, Yakeleya recommends that individuals do what they can to help community members in need.

“Go out there, be safe, let people know where you are,” he said. “That will help other people in the communities who are positive and need a place to stay.”

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  1. Yes, I agree postpone the election till we get control of COVID-19 in the region/Country of NWT, stay safe stay home.