More N.W.T. communities pass mandatory mask policies

More communities in the Northwest Territories are instituting mandatory mask policies as COVID-19 cases continue to climb across Canada.

Inuvik, Hay River and Fort Smith pass mask mandates for municipal buildings

Bernice Lavoie owns three stores in Inuvik where masks are mandatory. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

More communities in the Northwest Territories are instituting mandatory mask policies as COVID-19 cases continue to climb across Canada.

The local government in Fort Simpson recently passed a resolution requiring masks in stores. Around the same time, Fort Smith made masks mandatory in municipal buildings. Last Monday, similar policies went into effect in Inuvik and Hay River.

"Most decisions that have been made have been about safety. So putting in a mask policy in our own facilities is just another way to make sure that we can keep our residents safe here in Inuvik," said Inuvik Mayor Natasha Kulikowski.

"At this time it's not a big ask. Most businesses in town are also having their own mask policies in place and so I think having the town facilities operate in the same way … kind of makes the same expectation everywhere," Kulikowski said.

In November, stores in Inuvik including The Roost, Stanton, Northmart, the I.D.A pharmacy and the post office all implemented mask policies.

Now, with the new municipal policy in effect, residents will need to wear one if they enter the Midnight Sun Complex or the Town of Inuvik office.

Masks are now mandatory for anyone who enters the Midnight Sun Complex in Inuvik. (Mackenzie Scott/CBC)

Inuvik business owner supports mask policy

Bernice Lavoie is a co-owner of Inuvik's Home Hardware Building Centre, Just Raven' Fabrics and More and Arctic Rim Powersports. The stores were among the first in town to require people to wear masks earlier this year.

She said when the pandemic first hit in March, her stores required masks while there were cases in the territory. But she cancelled that policy once the territory was free of cases.

As the number of cases began to rise down south, she decided to bring it back.

"The talk of the second wave being worse than the first, it did raise some concerns with me," Lavoie said.

"Especially when you look at the fact that a lot of our flights originate out of Edmonton, and with Alberta spiking right now, it's just a matter of time until it infiltrates up here."

The one Canadian North flight that arrives in Inuvik several times a week from Yellowknife originates in Edmonton.

That flight has been a concern with many Inuvik and Norman Wells residents since the pandemic began. 

"You don't know if it's going to be transmitted from passenger to passenger," Lavoie said. "Is there a risk of it being transmitted?"

People following the rules, for the most part

Lavoie said she thinks it's great to see more businesses in town with similar mask policies.

She said so far, she only can think of one incident where someone might've not wanted to wear a mask. But everyone else has been abiding by the rules.

Lavoie praised the territorial government's handling of the pandemic so far, and said although she doesn't think there needs to be a territorial wide mask mandate right now, "if there's a spike in the N.W.T. we might need to revisit that."

She said if many cases do come into town, they might look into closing their stores like they did earlier in the pandemic and offer curbside pick-up.

For now, Lavoie said they will play it by ear and hope everyone stays safe and respects the guidelines.


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