The Government of the Northwest Territories announced Wednesday the creation of a task force to ensure compliance with public health directives from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer during the coronavirus pandemic.

Premier Caroline Cochrane, Minister of Health and Social Services Diane Thom, and chief public health officer Kami Kandola held a news conference on Wednesday to introduce the NWT Compliance and Enforcement Taskforce, headed by Conrad Baetz, assistant deputy minister of operations for the Department of Lands.

Conrad Baetz, assistant deputy minister of operations at the GNWT Department of Lands, will oversee an enforcement task force under the chief public health officer to ensure health directives during the coronavirus pandemic are followed. He will oversee close to 30 staff across the territory and work closely with organizations like the RCMP and municipal bylaw enforcement to ensure directives are followed.

The NWT is aiming to create a “strong and nimble task force” to strengthen public health orders from Kandola.

Kandola said there will be an “expanded presence” of known people in communities across the North who Baetz will train.  

“While the numbers are not yet final, we are getting roughly 30 staff in place to strengthen public health efforts,” she said.  

“They will be people communities know and respect. They have kept their lands and wildlife for years. 

“Mr. Baetz will get them rapidly trained to enact orders and will get to work right away.”

Kandola said Baetz will be her “right hand” and he was selected to head this task force because some residents have requested that the GNWT step up enforcement to protect their health.

“The Public Health Act and a declaration of a state of public health emergency provides the delegated powers to the task force to enforce any current and future public health orders,” said Kandola. “This was to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.”  

Enforcement powers 

Baetz told reporters that the enforcement task force will have the power to execute orders from Kandola as well as the Public Health Act, citing Section 32 of the act.

In recent weeks, NNSL Media has reported on community leaders being concerned about public gatherings despite orders from the GNWT to maintain physical distancing.

In March, Mike Harrison received publicity for ignoring directives by Kandola’s office to self-isolate for 14 days upon crossing the NWT border. Instead of going into quarantine, he drove directly to his remote cabin at Lindberg Landing.

Kandola said the GNWT has been responsive to instances when people have contacted Protect NWT on enforcement infringements since March. To date, there have been 180 total complaints filed since the public health emergency was declared. Nine of those cases remain under investigation.

Simon Whitehouse

Simon Whitehouse came to Yellowknife to work with Northern News Services in 2011. Simon obtained his journalism education at Algonquin College and the University of Ottawa. Simon can be reached at...

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