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‘Don’t penalize people that have left for Christmas’: Premier

Two GNWT officials travelled outside of the territory over the holiday period, despite the Chief Public Health Officer urging residents not to travel.

Deputy health minister Bruce Cooper visited his wife and children who live in Newfoundland.

The head of the COVID-19 secretariat, associate deputy minister Russell Neudorf, travelled to Kelowna with his wife to visit their three university-aged children at their home there.

Premier Caroline Cochrane did not say whether the two officials would be resigning, as has been happening in other provinces in Canada. Cochrane said she also didn’t think it would be appropriate to reveal details about other individuals if they had left the territory, due to privacy concerns.

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But she said she could confirm no minister has left the territory since December 23 and “no minister since the pandemic has traveled internationally.”

During a press conference, Cochrane said she wasn’t at liberty to say whether the trips had been approved by the GNWT.

“I think the message that people could get is that there are extenuating circumstances, we all have a role in trying to keep our residents safe,” said Cochrane. “All of us are neighbors, they have loved ones. Those are the people we’re trying to protect. But there are reasons that sometimes people have to travel, and so we’re not trying to be punitive.”

But she said she could guarantee every single GNWT official is following the self-isolation rules. She also warned against NWT residents stigmatizing those who did travel. Cochrane has also warned against stigma against those who contract COVID-19.

Dr. Kami Kandola, NWT’s Chief Public Health Officer, Health minister Julie Green and Cochrane have repeatedly told residents they should avoid travel during the Holidays.

“Please don’t vet your neighbor. Please do not penalize the people that have come home for Christmas, or that are left for Christmas. We’re all in this together.” 

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