Arviat South MLA Joe Savikataaq is urging the Department of Human Resources to force frontline education workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

”We need to protect our children that go to school. There are more students in school than the number of patients that go to the health centres on a daily basis, and we need to protect them and vaccines are the way to do it,” Savikataaq said in the Legislative Assembly on March 10.

Human Resources Minister Adam Lightstone acknowledged that “it is a very concerning topic that many Nunavummiut wish to hear a response to” and he said it’s an issue that is under advisement, but he stopped short of committing to make vaccinations mandatory for educators who work directly with students.

Savikataaq replied, “I thank the minister for saying they’re thinking about it, they’re talking about it, but they’re not really doing anything about it.”

He said parents are wary about sending their children to school because of Covid-19.

Indeed, Education Minister Pamela Gross revealed the previous day that school attendance had plummeted to just 23 per cent since the emergence of the Omicron variant, partly due to widespread self-isolation.

Savikataaq noted that frontline health workers are required to be vaccinated. He asked again why the same policy doesn’t apply to frontline educators.

Lightstone responded that the Department of Health imposed that vaccination mandate “some time ago” and the department had the legal authority to do so.

“It was a decision that was much easier to be made for the Department of Health,” he said. “It is one decision that must be taken balancing a number of factors, one being the health and safety of our

workforce, two being the health and safety of those that we are providing services to and three being the rights of our employees,” the minister said. “I’m not stating whether or not we will implement the vaccine mandate, but I will say that we are having those discussions.”

Derek Neary

Derek Neary has been reporting on developments in the North for 18 years. When he's not writing for Nunavut News, he's working on Northern News Services' special publications such as Opportunities North,...

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  1. What a mess. In a large community, staff could be reassigned so the unvaccinated did lesson prep, remote teaching, and record keeping, but in a small hamlet that wouldn’t work.