Chief Public Health Officer Kami Kandola issued a statement Saturday morning denouncing ‘Pike’ Mike Harrison and any resident defying public health orders when travelling into the Northwest Territories.
The GNWT is promising to investigate an incident reported by NNSL Media and published March 27 involving Harrison of Lindberg Landing – a small homestead about 150 km from the B.C. border on Highway 7 – who refused to self-isolate in Hay River for 14 days after coming back from a road trip in British Columbia and Alberta.
Harrison has also lived in Yellowknife over the years and was one of the stars of the Animal Planet reality television show Ice Lake Rebels, which chronicled the lives of houseboaters on Yellowknife Bay from 2014 to 2016.
Kandola stated Saturday that Harrison’s decision to avoid quarantine in Hay River after entering the NWT via Highway 1 showed “a brazen lack of consideration for public health.”
Last week, Kandola declared a public health emergency that included a restriction on cross-border traffic and required any NWT resident returning to the territory to self-isolate for 14 days at one of four checkpoints in the territory – Yellowknife, Hay River, Fort Smith or Inuvik.
The GNWT has said that the chief public officer has the authority to enforce these orders and defiance “is punishable by law and may include a fine upon summary conviction of up to $10,000 and six months imprisonment.”
Harrison told NNSL media on Friday that he was defying those orders after making it through the border checkpoint at Highway 1 and said he was heading straight to his cabin at Lindberg Landing after fueling up in Hay River.
“When Mike Harrison chose to ignore this order, he decided not to do his part,” Kandola states in the news release. “He chose to prioritize his own personal comfort over the safety of our territory. And he chose to go on to embolden others to ignore our medical direction by touting his act in the media.
“Mr. Harrison returned from southern British Columbia and through Alberta – two epicentres of this pandemic in Canada. He fits the profile of a risky returning resident – the exact kind for which we instituted these orders.”
Kandola states that the territory is aiming to aggressively slow the spread of the virus with the measures and to ensure that residents returning from hot spots in the south “were in locations with the necessary level of health services to treat those who fall ill.”
She adds that the territory is also paying for accommodations and food for anyone not living in one of the four communities.
“It helped avoid returning residents stopping to stock up in a small community, and risking exposing community members in doing so,” she stated.
The full statement can be read below:
Statement: NWT Chief Public Health Officer Denounces Those Ignoring Travel Order
YELLOWKNIFE(MARCH 28, 2020) – NWT Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola offered the following response to a story published in NNSL on March 27, 2020 detailing a brazen lack of consideration for public health by an individual crossing the NWT boundary:
“Last week, we declared a Public Health Emergency in this territory. We took aggressive measures to protect our friends, families, communities, and healthcare system by restricting cross-border traffic, and establishing isolation areas in Hay River, Yellowknife, Fort Smith, and Inuvik.
“We did it to slow the spread of the virus, and make sure those coming from hotspots in the south were in locations with the necessary level of health services to treat those who fall ill. And we committed to paying for accommodations and food for anyone who didn’t live in these centres. It helped avoid returning residents stopping to stock up in a small community, and risking exposing community members in doing so.
“When Mike Harrison chose to ignore this order, he decided not to do his part. He chose to prioritize his own personal comfort over the safety of our territory. And he chose to go on to embolden others to ignore our medical direction by touting his act in the media.
“Mr. Harrison returned from southern British Columbia and through Alberta – two epicentres of this pandemic in Canada. He fits the profile of a risky returning resident – the exact kind for which we instituted these orders.
“In spite of his assertions, he did not do anyone any favours by avoiding additional stops for gas. There are good guidelines to be followed when making these kinds of stops.
“But if he returned to his homestead, hundreds of kilometres away from a hospital and off-grid, and became ill with COVID-19 he’d caught down south, this could put unnecessary strain on our medical system at the time it needs it least.
“It could cost an avoidable Medevac trip, or caused him to unknowingly spread the virus with mild symptoms if he went to town in a small regional centre like Fort Simpson with less robust medical services.
“There is no denying there are inconveniences we’re all now facing. But pandemics are more than inconvenient – they’re an extraordinary challenge that we need to make sacrifices to overcome.
“And that means playing on the same team as the thousands of Northwest Territories residents who are doing the right thing – protecting our elders, our families, our loved ones, and our small communities by doing their part.
“Needless to say we will be investigating this matter.”