Unprecedented times are being met with unprecedented measures as the Northwest Territories responds to COVID-19.
That sentence lead the government of NWT’s announcement on Wednesday April 8th, introducing the NWT Compliance and Enforcement Task Force with the mandate to strengthen the territory’s public health enforcement actions to protect the public health of all NWT residents.
Premier Caroline Cochrane, Minister of Health and Social Services Diane Thom, and NWT Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola made the announcement in a media brief the afternoon of Wednesday April 8th. As additional measures to better prepare for the deployment of this task force Dr. Kandola brought in Conrad Baetz as her right hand and enforcement strategic lead.
“While we expect all residents to do the responsible thing and follow the directions of Dr. Kandola, we also need to be prepared to enforce those orders when it is necessary. Creation of this task force will ensure we have the capacity to keep our territory safe.” Caroline Cochrane, Premier
Baetz brings decades of experience in delivering compliance and enforcement programs in the NWT,. He has been deputized as a Deputy Chief Public Health Officer under the authority of the Public Health Act.
“Changing behavior is central to responding to a pandemic. Education and awareness is one component, but when there’s a refusal to change behavior, we must use enforcement. Mr. Baetz and his team will lead a coordinated effort to put force behind our orders when necessary across this territory.” Dr. Kami Kandola, NWT Chief Public Health Officer
According to the Dr. Kandola the task force’s first acts will be assigning officers from across government to enforce public health orders and investigate non-compliance across all 33 communities, and ramping up collaboration with other organizations across the territory. The release also states that the RCMP and By law officers will play support roles where necessary.
First time offenders will be faced with a hefty $10,000 fine or a prison term of up to six months if individuals are found by the Enforcement Task Force to be in violation of the Chief Public Health Officer’s orders, the Public Health Act or its regulations.
The following departments will be involved in the implementation of the enforcement task force;
- Department of Environment and Natural Resources
- Department of Infrastructure and Lands
- Department of Health and Social Services.
This group will coordinate with the established Protect NWT complaint and enforcement structure. Anyone with credible, specific complaints is urged to continue mailing [email protected] or call 1-833-378-8297.