Hay River hires bylaw officer to gather information on self-isolation breaches

Hay River council has appointed a bylaw officer to help gather information on breaches of the N.W.T. government’s mandatory self-isolation order for people returning the territory, as well as information on people possibly holding social gatherings or not staying two metres apart.

Officer will also gather information on possible social gatherings

Hay River mayor Kandis Jameson says she hopes the territorial government will come up with a solution to enforce the mandatory 14-day self-isolation put in place by the chief public health officer for people returning to the territory. In the meantime, Hay River has appointed a bylaw officer to gather information on businesses and people not complying with the order and other health recommendations from officials. (Kirsten Murphy/CBC)

Town council in Hay River, N.W.T., has hired a bylaw officer to help gather information on breaches of the territorial government's pleads to not have social gatherings, remain physically distant, as well as the mandatory 14-day self-isolation order for people returning to the territory. 

Judy Goucher, the town's senior administrative officer, told town council Monday night the officer will be patrolling the streets at different times of day. The person will take notes on what businesses are open and where people are meeting. 

That information will then be passed along to the office of the chief public health officer, which is in charge of enforcement. 

It's quite obvious ... something has to change.- Kandis Jameson, mayor of Hay River

"Although we don't have enforcement, we certainly can feed information to the enforcement agencies … and make sure there are more eyes out there in the community," Goucher told council. 

Most of the town's information on people breaking the rules is coming from social media, Goucher said. Having someone on the ground, she continued, would help encourage people to stay in their homes. 

Goucher said the bylaw officer could also collect statistics related to non-compliance that the town could use. 

Health order 'totally ignored' by some

The move comes as councillors around the table criticize the lack of enforcement. 

"We have people who are supposed to be in self-isolation totally ignoring an order … and nobody doing anything about it," Mayor Kandis Jameson told council.  "So, you know, I'm screaming my head off at one level.

"It's quite obvious ... something has to change."

Coun. Brian Willows echoed the mayor's frustrations, calling the territory's enforcement policies "toothless." He wanted to know what else the town could do besides appointing the bylaw officer. 

Jameson said she believes Hay River could create a specific bylaw that would include penalties for those that don't comply to orders from the chief public health officer if the territorial government does not step in — but that is not on the agenda yet. 

The mayor said she is still hoping the territorial government will come forward with a solution in the near future. 

Premier Caroline Cochrane told CBC News last week that the territory is looking into enforcement across all departments. 

People 'very reticent' to use government phone line

Hay River councillors said they are getting many concerned calls from community members. 

Dr. Kami Kandola, the territory's chief public health officer, has encouraged territorial residents to call a hotline to report anyone that is not complying with the legally binding order to self-isolate after returning to the territory. 

Disobeying the order could include a fine of up to $10,000 and six months in jail. 

Coun. Linda Duford said people are "very reticent" to use the territorial helpline and would rather call someone local to report breaches. 

"They feel it's going into a big pile that's never going to get addressed," Duford said. "People want to have someone local to call … it'll empower people to call in more."

The territorial government has investigated 161 complaints as of Tuesday morning. Of these investigations, 138 are closed and "appropriate actions" have been taken, 14 were deemed not credible. Nine more investigations are currently in progress.