Fort Resolution still needs more support from territorial government, mayor says
'I'm trying to reassure people — but if I don't have information, it's really difficult,' says Patrick Simon
The mayor of Fort Resolution, where the Northwest Territories had its first case of COVID-19 outside a regional hub, says his request for clearer communication has gone unanswered.
The community became a focal point for an ongoing debate over patient privacy and the right to public health information when Deninu Kue Chief Louis Balsillie and Tu Nedhé-Wiilideh MLA Steve Norn both announced that the case was in their backyard.
Some small community leaders in the territory have argued they need to know if COVID-19 cases occur locally, to support their residents and answer questions.
But chief public health officer Dr. Kami Kandola says sharing a case's location outside a regional centre could lead to people being outed, ostracized and threatened.
Fort Resolution Mayor Patrick Simon says he's moved on from arguing over that case, but still wants more support from the territorial government, including funding for bigger signs about stopping the spread of the novel coronavirus.
He also wants better communication about how contact tracing, site cleanup and medical evacuations for COVID-19 patients are handled.
CBC North's Northbeat host Juanita Taylor interviewed Simon last week and asked him about what his community needs moving forward.
The interview has been condensed for clarity and style.
What is the hamlet asking the N.W.T. government to review regarding the case of COVID-19 in the community?
The protocols and processes of a lot of things to look at where there might be errors, and to fix them quickly.
Small communities know a lot in a faster period of time, so people were quite aware of the name and location [of the patient] whether it was confirmed or not.
My need for appropriate and necessary disclosure was so I could call my people and reassure them that they're safe and secure.
What could the government have done differently?
I wanted to know how the response would be conducted — from the evacuation, to the nurse handling the case, to the tracking of the case, and also the cleanup — because a lot of people are fearful.
Given what they all declared in terms of [border] restrictions, I wanted to see if those things are really working.
Good communication works. This honour system does not work. We need something more.
It's important both to see where there may be errors that we can quite quickly correct, because it might happen again.
And we've got to handle it a lot better than we did here. It caused a lot of fear and anguish.
Have you heard back from the government about your concerns?
I did speak with [former Municipal and Community Affairs] Minister Paulie Chinna briefly and she kind of helped in a way. But then things have changed. And since then I had no reach down from territorial leaders. None at all.
I think I've been reasonable and I'll calmly wait to see if we could start moving forward with these issues.
If you want to do things in our community, you need the support from the local leadership.
What steps are you taking as mayor to ensure your community's safety after having a case of COVID-19?
I'm trying to reassure people — but if I don't have information to reassure them, it's really difficult.
One of my philosophies is never to operate in the dark. I'm the first one to walk to the switch and turn the lights on. And in this case, I don't control the light switch.