N.W.T. extends state of emergency, public health emergency for 7th time

N.W.T. residents can expect to be living under a state of emergency and public health emergency for at least two more weeks.

Territory has been under state of emergency due to COVID-19 pandemic since March 24

Health and Social Services Minister Diane Thom speaks in the N.W.T. Legislative Assembly. On Tuesday, the territorial government announced that Thom would extend a public health emergency declared in the territory for another 14 days. (CBC)

The Northwest Territories government has extended emergency measures declared at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning that residents can expect to be living under a state of emergency and public health emergency for at least two more weeks.

In a news release issued Tuesday, the territorial government confirmed that the territory-wide emergency declarations have been extended for the seventh time. Both extensions will take effect as of June 24, and expire on July 8.

The extended health emergency was declared by Minister of Health and Social Services Diane Thom on the recommendation of Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola, while the state of emergency was extended by Premier Caroline Cochrane in her capacity as minister of municipal and community affairs.

"From the start, the addition of the State Of Emergency to support the Public Health Emergency was a proactive measure to ensure the government's preparedness to respond to any situation that may arise," the release reads. 

"Extension of the State of Emergency continues to give the GNWT the option of accessing exceptional powers under the Emergency Management Act to support implementation of the Public Health Emergency and public health orders if needed."

The territory has largely been successful in mitigating the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and has not had an active case of COVID-19 since April 20. On June 12, the territory moved to phase two of its Emerging Wisely re-opening plan, relieving some restrictions for businesses and social gatherings.

The state of emergency, first declared on March 24, grants the territorial government and its agents extraordinary powers, including the ability to enter premises without a warrant, seize private property, and arbitrarily detain residents.

Territorial law limits extensions of states of emergency to 14 days, but they can be extended an unlimited number of times.

Public health orders restricting travel and gatherings are enabled by the public health emergency first declared March 18. A public health emergency grants extra powers to the chief public health officer, including restricting travel into the territory. Non-essential travel to the N.W.T. has been prohibited since March 21.

In the release announcing the extension, the territory says it will "continue to review its actions and arrangements for responding to the pandemic to ensure they remain effective and are aligned with the current circumstances, including relaxed restrictions as identified in Emerging Wisely."

The release also reminded residents that travel within the territory is restricted, with limited exceptions.

"Everyone entering the N.W.T. is still required to self-isolate for 14 days in Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River or Fort Smith before travelling to their home community – with few exceptions," it reads.