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Traveller from Alberta kicked out of N.W.T. after violating strict public health rules

An person travelling from High Level, Alta., was kicked out of Fort Resolution, N.W.T., for violating the territory's COVID-19 rules around self-isolating after getting past the border checks.

Fort Resolution Mayor Patrick Simon says he found out the individual was in his community on Tuesday

A file photo of Fort Resolution, N.W.T., in August. Local leadership confirmed that someone who travelled from High Level, Alta., was able to enter the community without completing the 14-day self-isolation in a regional centre. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

A person from Alberta was kicked out of Fort Resolution, N.W.T., for violating the territory's COVID-19 rules around self-isolating after crossing the border.   

The mayor of Fort Resolution, N.W.T., told CBC that an individual who drove from High Level, Alta., was forced to leave the community on Tuesday after getting past the border checkpoints at Enterprise, N.W.T., on Monday.

Mayor Patrick Simon said the individual went straight to Little Buffalo River Crossing Territorial Park — a small area near the community.

The territory has banned all non-essential travel into the N.W.T. and requires most travellers to first self-isolate in Yellowknife, Fort Smith, Hay River, or Inuvik — communities the government calls "designated isolation centres" — before going to smaller communities.

I wasn't exactly thrilled about it.- Patrick Simon, mayor of Fort Resolution

The mayor said he found out the individual was in his community on Tuesday, and immediately contacted the hamlet's senior administrative officer, the local enforcement officer and the territory's Municipal and Community Affairs Department to get answers. 

"I wasn't exactly thrilled about it," Simon said. 

Fort Resolution, a community of about 532 people, was the first place outside of Yellowknife and Inuvik to see a resident test positive for COVID-19, exposing gaps in the territory's COVID-19 enforcement policy and prompting questions and concerns over how an individual was able to enter with the illness.

Steve Norn, the MLA for Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh, confirmed the timeline of events with CBC News, including that the person was not from the N.W.T. 

He said he received many concerned calls from constituents about this non-N.W.T. resident in their community. 

"They're like, 'Why are they here? They're not supposed to be self-isolating here,'" Norn said. 

Louis Balsillie, the chief of the local Deninu Kue First Nation, confirmed the sighting of an individual from outside the community in a Facebook post on Tuesday. Balsillie declined an interview, but said the news made him "upset." 

"So what do we do, pull the checkstop and just let anyone come into our community without knowing where they're coming from?" Balsillie wrote. 

N.W.T. government investigating: spokesperson

Mike Westwick, a spokesperson for the territory, said in a statement that the individual was directed to leave the territory by their enforcement staff and was given a verbal warning.

The government has also "taken action to investigate" the circumstances leading up to this person's entry into Fort Resolution. 

Workers in Fort Resolution supervise a checkstop on the main road into the community, Highway 6. Individuals from Alberta are only able to enter the N.W.T if they are given some sort of permission to do so, MLA Steve Norn said. (Deninu Kue First Nation/Facebook)

Individuals from Alberta are only able to enter the N.W.T if they are given some sort of permission from the territorial government to do so, MLA Norn said.

As of Wednesday, the territory has officially asked 13 people to leave the territory since the public health order was put into place, including this individual from High Level.

Westwick said that, so far, warnings have been "sufficient" for the investigations the department has already completed, but that "we are ready to hand out tickets and fines if it becomes necessary."

'We don't have the resources': mayor

Last month, after a person who tested positive for coronavirus was able to make their way into Fort Resolution, Balsillie said the hamlet set up a checkpoint outside the community on April 3, in response. 

The checkpoint is run by volunteers, Mayor Simon said, who watch who is coming in and out of the community. 

We're going to continue to push for answers.- Patrick Simon, mayor of Fort Resolution

Simon said there's little the municipality can do to remove someone from their community that does not comply with the self-isolation order. 

"You could ask, but that's about all — you can't make them tell you anything or prevent them," Simon said. "It's up to the person coming if they want to engage with us, respect our wishes or not. 

"We don't have the resources to hold anyone accountable right now."

'We're going to continue to push for answers'

In April, Simon asked the territorial government for a formal investigation into how a person with COVID-19 was able to reach the community. That has not yet happened, according to Simon. 

"We're going to continue to push for answers ... until we get something that we feel is deserving," Simon said.

MLA Norn said he has not yet followed up with the government on a formal investigation into what happened in Fort Resolution in April, but is willing to do so in the future if he is asked.

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