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COVID-19 Developments in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut


by the McLennan Ross Labour & Employment Team

Northwest Territories

Public Health

  • On May 12, 2020, the Government of the Northwest Territories (the “GNWT”) announced its plan to gradually ease restrictions put into place during the pandemic. The “Emerging Wisely” plan takes a phased approach to opening up businesses and allowing more social gatherings. The current phase is containment, during which time the Public Health Orders remain in effect.
  • The next phase of the Emerging Wisely plan may be implemented in mid-to-late May and will allow the following:
    • Some businesses can reopen with capacity restrictions and other restrictions.  Such businesses will include personal service establishments (chiropractors, massage therapists, hair salons, etc.), museums, bottle depots, and personal training at fitness centres.
    • Up to 5 people who do not live in a household can now visit, with a maximum of 10 people in the home at a time.
    • Personal outdoor gatherings of 25 people or less will be permitted.
    • Other types of outdoor gatherings will be permitted with restrictions, including farmers’ markets, campgrounds, recreational facilities, libraries, golf courses, beaches, boat launches, outdoor fields, and playgrounds.
    • Schools may open with certain restrictions.
  • Public Health Order – Travel Restrictions and Self-Isolation Protocol
    • Everyone is prohibited from entering the Territory, with some exceptions:
      • NWT residents returning home;
      • Workers importing/exporting goods or providing supply chain services;
      • Flight crews;
      • Essential services workers or supporting workers (see Order for complete list);
      • Persons providing child and dependent care to essential service workers;
      • Medical travelers from Nunavut;
      • Transient workers in the mineral and petroleum resources industry;
      • Workers involved in the construction of public and Indigenous infrastructure projects, including attendance at remote work camps and open, non-remote workplaces; and
      • Persons traveling through the NWT in transit to another jurisdiction.
    • NWT residents must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the NWT in either Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, or Fort Smith. A self-isolation plan must be completed and approved by a Public Health Officer.
    • Import/export, supply chain, and flight crew workers who will be in the NWT for:
      • less than 36 hours must self-monitor and abide by social distancing guidelines established by the Chief Public Health Officer. These workers must immediately self-isolate and contact a Public Health Officer if they exhibits symptoms; or
      • more than 36 hours must submit a worker self-isolation plan and self-isolate when not working. They must also abide by social distancing when not working or wear a face mask.
    • Persons in transit who will be in the NWT for:
      • less than 12 hours must practice social distancing and immediately self-isolate; or
      • more than 12 hours must self-isolate and report to a Public Health Officer.
    • Essential services workers, non-remote infrastructure workers, and support workers must self-isolate for 14 days upon their return to the NWT in either Yellowknife, Inuvik, Hay River, or Fort Smith. A worker self-isolation plan must be completed and approved by a Public Health Officer.
      • Employers can request exemptions from this requirement from the Chief Public Health Officer.
      • Exempted employees must practice social distancing or wear a face mask, including during travel. They must also self-isolate when not working.
      • Employers are responsible for ensuring that employees arriving from outside the NWT comply with these requirements.
      • Employers must also ensure that social distancing protocols are put into place that are consistent with workplace risk and field level risk assessments.
    • More details on the border closure
    • More details for travelers
    • More details on worker exemptions
  • Public Health Order – Prohibition of Gatherings and Closure of Certain Businesses
    • All indoor gatherings (both private and public) of any size are banned, except for:
      • People living in the same house;
      • Essential services work;
      • Retail businesses and their customers;
      • Offices, workplaces, and non-retail businesses that can use social distancing;
      • Daycare facilities, in-home childcare, and babysitters;
      • Persons providing necessary in-home care to other persons; and
      • Sobering centres and shelters.
    • Public gatherings outdoors are prohibited.
    • Private gatherings of more than 10 persons are banned. Gatherings of 10 or less persons are allowed with social distancing of two metres.
    • The following facilities and businesses must close:
      • Recreational facilities, such as arenas, pools, and gyms;
      • Community centres and youth centres;
      • Bottle depots;
      • Museums and art galleries;
      • Bars and night clubs;
      • Theatres and movies theatres;
      • Dine-in portions of restaurants. Take-out service is permitted with social distancing; and
      • Personal service establishments where social distancing is not possible, such as hair salons, spas, and massage therapists.
    • Essential retail stores can remain open, such as grocery stores, gas stations, banks, pharmacies, and liquor stores.
  • Public Health Order – Mineral and Petroleum Industry
    • Workers must:
      • complete 14 days of social distancing in accordance with guidelines prior to traveling to camp;
      • complete a health screening with temperature check and COVID-19 symptom inquiry prior to traveling to camp;
      • complete an additional health screening, including COVID-19 symptom inquiry, prior to the start of each shift;
      • comply with social distancing measures while on shift;
      • report symptoms and then self-isolate in a designated part of the workplace; and
      • comply with disinfection procedures.
    • Employers must:
      • complete a workplace risk assessment prior to permitting workers to travel to camp;
      • establish workplace social distancing protocols consistent with the risk assessment;
      • have at the workplace the minimum number of staff necessary to maintain operations;
      • notify the Chief Public Health Officer if any employees display symptoms;
      • establish disinfection procedures satisfactory to the Chief Public Health Officer for certain areas and facilities; and
      • cease operation of self-serve buffets and mess halls.

Government Support for Businesses

  • The GNWT has increased funding for the Community Futures Program.
  • The Business Development and Investment Corporation (“BDIC”) is offering qualified small businesses in the NWT with Working Capital Loans of up to $25,000 (or more) at a rate of 1.75%. Loans will be amortized for up to five years with options for payment deferment. Applications can be submitted at any time.
  • Current clients of BDIC may apply for reduced or deferred payments of up to three months without penalty or additional interest.


  • The GNWT has asked the majority of its employees to work from home beginning on March 19, 2020.
  • Essential government operations and services to residents will continue.
  • Many GNWT offices and facilities are closed, but online services are available. A full list of closures and affected services is available here.
  • Land Titles Office, Corporate Registries, and Personal Property Registry are only available online until further notice. Documents can be dropped off for filing during certain hours.
  • More details

Schools and Childcare

  • All schools in the Northwest Territories will be closed for the remainder of the 2019/2020 academic year. However, this may change in the next phase of the Emerging Wisely plan. (More details)
  • Early learning and childcare programs will remain open, where possible. (More details)


  • Court of Appeal for the Northwest Territories
    • Counsel will be advised of the accommodations available for the June 16th sittings.
    • More details
  • Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories
    • Regular Civil Chambers will proceed by way of teleconference only until further notice.
    • Special Civil Chambers scheduled between now and June 30th that do not have testimony may proceed by telephone.
    • All case management conferences will proceed by teleconference until further notice.
    • All matters will proceed in Courtroom 201. Members of the public are not permitted to attend court until further notice.
    • The Registry remains open for filing of documents.
    • More details
  • Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories
    • All lawyers are to be appear by telephone only until further notice.
    • All civil proceedings outside Yellowknife are cancelled until July 5th. Matters will be automatically rescheduled.
    • All non-urgent civil proceedings in Yellowknife will be automatically adjourned to a date after July 5th.
    • Only urgent interlocutory matters may proceed before July 6th.  
    • All civil mediations scheduled prior to July 6th will be rescheduled after July 5th, unless parties wish to proceed by way of teleconference.
    • All matters will proceed in Courtroom 202. Members of the public are not permitted to attend court until further notice.
    • The Registry remains open for filing of documents.
    • More details


Public Health

  • The Minister of Health has extended the Public Health Emergency to May 28, 2020.
  • As of May 7, 2020, all Nunavut residents who leave the territory voluntarily will be required to pay $2,100 per individual and $1,050 per each additional family member to the Government of Nunavut to cover the cost of staying at an approved hotel for the mandatory 14-day isolation period in either Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, or Yellowknife prior to their return to the territory. (More details)
  • On April 26, 2020, the Travel Restriction Order was amended.
    • The Nunavut border is closed to everyone except:
      • Nunavut residents with a letter of authorization from the Chief Public Health Officer;
      • Import/export and supply chain workers;
      • Flight and vessel crewmembers;
      • Critical service workers and their support workers;
      • Indigenous people exercising hunting rights;
      • Transient workers traveling directly to camp and never entering communities;
      • Temporary Foreign Workers entitled to enter Canada;
      • Medical travelers; and
      • Anyone else authorized by the Chief Public Health Officer to enter the territory.
    • Anyone traveling into Nunavut must self-isolate for 14 days in either Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, or Yellowknife before boarding the plane. A clearance letter from the Chief Public Health Officer is required.
    • Import/export and supply chain workers must practice social distancing and self-monitor for symptoms.
    • Critical workers must self-monitor and undergo a risk assessment by a Medical Health Officer.
    • Flight and vessel crewmembers must report to the Chief Public Health Officer within one hour of arriving and cannot leave the port of entry until directed.
  • More details

Government Support for Businesses


  • All non-essential GN personnel will work from home.
  • Residents should call and make appointments for services before attending in-person.
  • Labour Standards Office is available to provide services.

Schools and Daycares

  • All schools in Nunavut will be closed for the rest of the 2019/2020 academic year.
  • All daycares will remain closed.
  • More details


  • Nunavut Court of Justice
    • Regular operations have been suspended, including satellite court operations. The suspension will remain in effect until further notice.
    • All civil matters have been adjourned sine die. After June 1, 2020, counsel will be asked to address all suspended civil matters.
    • Emergency matters will proceed by telephone only.
    • The Registry remains open for the filing of electronic documents only.
    • The Courthouse in Iqaluit is closed to the public.
    • More details
  • Nunavut Sheriff’s Office

The Nunavut Sheriff’s Office will be suspending all document service (current and new) for the time being.

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