Canadian Rangers and Canadian Red Cross to help N.W.T. amid surge of COVID-19 cases

Fort Good Hope Chief Tommy Kakfwi said the Canadian Red Cross could be coming to the community as early as Sunday, while MP Michael McLeod said a request for help by the Canadian Rangers had also been approved.

Canadian Red Cross could arrive as early as Sunday, says Fort Good Hope chief

Two Canadian Rangers deliver food to homes in Ginoogaming First Nation in northern Ontario in February 2021. N.W.T. MP Michael McLeod confirmed Saturday that the Rangers and the Canadian Red Cross were being called to help with a surge of COVID-19 cases in the territory. (Warrant Officer Carl Wolfe)

The Canadian Red Cross is being sent to help Fort Good Hope's understaffed healthcare team deal with a surge of COVID-19 cases, according to the remote N.W.T. community's chief. 

Tommy Kakfwi told CBC News he heard from MP Michael McLeod that the federal government had "released assistance" on Saturday morning, and that members of the Red Cross might come as early as Sunday morning. 

McLeod confirmed in a Facebook post Saturday afternoon that calls for the Canadian Red Cross and the Canadian Rangers to help deal with COVID-19 in the territory had been approved. 

"I am pleased to share that the Government of Canada is able to provide assistance via the deployment of the Canadian Armed Forces personnel to assist with community response efforts," he wrote earlier in the day.

McLeod did not specified where, exactly, the help was being sent.

As of Friday evening, the active number of cases across the N.W.T. grew to 198. That includes 86 cases of the virus in Fort Good Hope, a community of approximately 516 residents, and 73 cases in Colville Lake, a community of about 129.

On Saturday morning, Kakfwi said he wasn't aware of the Canadian Armed Forces being deployed, but he had been asking that the Canadian Rangers be activated. 

"They could police the river, the airports, because we're trying to control incoming and outgoing traffic," he said, adding that North-Wright Air had suspended scheduled service to both Fort Good Hope and Colville Lake. 

The Canadian Rangers are a sub-component of the Canadian Army Reserve, according to the federal government's website. They live and work in remote, isolated and coastal regions of the country and provide "light-equipped, self-sufficient mobile forces" to support in domestic national security and public safety operations.

"Nobody knows the community better than the people themselves," said Kakfwi.

Earlier this week, the territorial government asked the federal government and the Canadian Red Cross for additional staff and supplies to help deal with the rising number of COVID-19 cases.

Health Minister Julie Green told CBC News on Wednesday the territory required additional resources for testing and lab analysis as well as more people to administer vaccines.

McLeod also said his federal election campaign would stop holding in-person events and going door-to-door until the COVID-19 situation in the territory improved.