Northern labour federation calls for 'immediate action' so all Canadians can vote Monday

The Northern Territories Federation of Labour is calling on the federal government and Elections Canada to take immediate action so that Canadians who are self-isolating due to COVID-19 on Monday won't be disenfranchised.

'Immediate action must to be taken to facilitate the public's right to vote'

A sign points to an Elections Canada office set up in Yellowknife's Centre Square Mall Sept. 15, 2021. Anyone in self-isolation due to COVID-19 will not be allowed to visit a polling station Monday. (Sara Minogue/CBC)

The Northern Territories Federation of Labour, which represents a dozen unions in the N.W.T. and Nunavut, is calling on the federal government and Elections Canada to take immediate action so that all Canadians have a chance to vote in Monday's federal election. 

CBC North reported Thursday that anyone required to self-isolate due to COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 on Sept. 20 will not be able to visit a polling station and cast their ballot. 

"It is deeply disappointing to see a lack of planning and no action being taken to correct this disenfranchisement of voters in the Northwest Territories," said Nicole Tews, the federation's president, in a news release Thursday.

It isn't clear how many people in the Northwest Territories are currently isolating, but as of Wednesday, the territory reported 199 active cases of COVID-19. One hundred and twenty-eight of those are in Yellowknife. 

Two communities in the territory are under containment orders, with 30 active cases in Behchokǫ̀ and 23 in Whatì.

Leanne Tait, Election Canada's returning officer for the Northwest Territories, said Thursday that there are 30,000 electors on the voters list in the N.W.T. Of that, 3,400 voted in advance polls and 1,300 requested mail in ballots.

"The residents of the N.W.T. have lived with this pandemic for almost two years. The Government of Canada and Elections Canada have had sufficient time to make sure a plan was in place before calling an election," read the release from the labour federation.

"A status quo approach will not work in this election, given the unprecedented circumstances we are in. Immediate action must to be taken to facilitate the public's right to vote." 

Many Yellowknifers CBC spoke to Thursday afternoon agree.

"I think they should come up with another option for that, for sure," said Nancy Sweetman. "Everybody needs a voice."

Diane Alikamik said although they're in isolation, people have a right to vote for who they want.

"Just help them out somehow," she said.

Rachel Riffel suggested Elections Canada might be able to go door to door "and maybe safely get a vote from each household that's not able to leave."

Meanwhile, Paul Betsina said he thinks Elections Canada should have been better prepared.

"Here we are in the 21st century now we should be able to figure out something," he said.

The federation said it is working with the Canadian Labour Congress "to press for a timely solution on behalf of all eligible voters in the Northwest Territories."

With files from April Hudson, Mario De Ciccio


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