Nunavut baby's death while in mandatory self-isolation in Yellowknife hotel prompts investigation

Jackson Quince Agligoetok and dad Jason Agligoetok had been in Yellowknife for medical care at Stanton Territorial Hospital for weeks. Jackson died last week.

Jackson Quince Agligoetok died at the Explorer Hotel after being discharged from hospital

A file photo of the Explorer Hotel in Yellowknife. Jason Agligoetok says he was caring for his infant son Jackson Quince Agligoetok while in Yellowknife for medical care at Stanton Territorial Hospital for weeks. Jackson died last week. (Facebook photo)

An infant from Kugluktuk, Nunavut, died late last week while self-isolating with his father in a hotel in Yellowknife.

Jason Agligoetok said he'd been in Yellowknife for several weeks caring for his infant son Jackson Quince Agligoetok, while the baby received medical treatment at Stanton Territorial Hospital.

After being discharged from the hospital, the two were isolated at the Explorer Hotel as part of a mandated 14-day self-isolation period required for all residents returning to Nunavut during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Agligoetok said he went to sleep one night and when he woke up his son was unconscious. The grieving father said he called paramedics immediately. Jackson could not be revived.

I just wish they sent us home when we got discharged from hospital.- Jason Agligoetok

The Northwest Territories' chief coroner Cathy Menard confirmed to CBC on Saturday that a "sudden death" of an infant late last week is being investigated. 

Menard said part of that investigation will include looking into whether the government of Nunavut gave the family of the infant all necessary supports during quarantine.

"I just wish they sent us home when we got discharged from hospital," Agligoetok told CBC in a Facebook message. "I … could've had more help for him at home from his mother and grandmother, also his aunt."

Menard said the infant's body has been sent to Edmonton for a postmortem examination.

On Tuesday in an email through a Department of Justice spokesperson, Menard added that such an investigation, looking at all factors, is routine when anyone from outside the Northwest Territories dies in the territory.

"I encourage you to not speculate that this death investigation is a result of the current health pandemic," she wrote.

Nunavut's chief coroner's office said it will not be investigating as the case will be dealt with by the N.W.T. 

During a press conference on Tuesday afternoon, the Nunavut government said it can't speak about the specific case. 

"I can't get into the details out of respect for the family, but there's no indication of anything untoward occurring," said Health Minister George Hickes.

Hickes said the infant's death was not related to COVID-19, and added that because the hotel is not a government-run facility, the incident is not being considered a death while in government care. 

"These isolation hubs are being used to help people so they can return home. It's not a healthcare facility, it's still a hotel," said Hickes.

Baby wasn't sleeping in crib, dad says

Agligoetok said that for the most part, the government of Nunavut gave him what he needed during quarantine while caring for Jackson. 

Agligoetok said Jackson wasn't sleeping in a crib. He said he thought he should have asked hotel staff for a crib, but wasn't sure if they had any. 

Nunastar Properties Inc., which oversees the Explorer Hotel, referred questions about the incident to the government of Nunavut, saying it does not comment on guests' affairs. 

When asked about the number of cribs available for infants at the hotel, Nunastar president Ed Romanowski declined to offer a specific number.

"When people ask for cribs, we provide them," he said. "We've never run out of cribs when people ask for them."

Hickes said Tuesday that guests with babies are supposed to be offered cribs.

"It's my understanding that all clients travelling with infants are offered a crib. We will be following up with all of our hotel contracts to make sure that they have sufficient inventory," said Hickes.

Agligoetok was allowed to break his quarantine early and return to Kugluktuk before his 14 days of self-isolation ended in order to be with family.

This incident comes as the government of Nunavut faces criticism for its approach to preventing the arrival of COVID-19 in the territory. One quarantined resident in Winnipeg complained that she and her mother were treated "worse than inmates and people in prison" after travelling from Baker Lake, Nunavut, to Manitoba for medical treatment.