The Monkey Tree Pub is alleging a COVID-19 enforcement officer has repeatedly been ‘aggressive and unprofessional’ towards staff members.
In a letter sent to Premier Caroline Cochrane by the NWT Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the restaurant, the letter cited a complaint about the treatment restaurant employees allegedly received from a Protect NWT COVID-19 enforcement officer.
Monkey Tree says in the letter they have never refused entrance to a COVID-19 enforcement officer, but will now start refusing this particular officer.
The letter added it is “concerning” that the GNWT does not see the issue of a “male in an authority position being aggressive and unprofessional to a sector that is 85 per cent female.”
The Yellowknife eatery received a fine of more than $5,000 for violating COVID-19 capacity limits in January. Monkey Tree is currently appealing that fine.
Mike Westwick, spokesperson for the Covid Secretariat said the GNWT is “absolutely confident in the conduct and professionalism of our officers” but wouldn’t comment on the incident any further, saying they “will allow the court process to run its course.”
“We do not lay charges lightly, but at times they are necessary. The rules are there to protect the population. When they’re broken in a pandemic, the potential is there for individuals far beyond an immediate circle to get hurt if things go wrong,” Westwick said in an email. “It is also important to understand that our investigations and enforcement priorities are complaint-driven — meaning we do not go looking for a fire unless there’s already been some smoke.”
The letter says the enforcement officer in question has issued multiple warnings about violating COVID-19 guidelines, like having signage about hand sanitizer, having arrows on the floor pointing the direction patrons should walk in and mandatory masks. All that despite those regulations not being mandatory for NWT restaurants.
“It seems unacceptable that businesses now have to worry that infractions can be dug up seemingly out of nowhere, despite the amount of time that has lapsed, and/or whether or not the inspector actually witnessed it,” the letter continued.
The NWT Chamber called for an investigation into the incident and a full report to be made public about the issue.