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Baker Lake Elder critical of CBC sending staff from Winnipeg with no self-isolation requirement

Joan Hitkati of Baker Lake was not happy when she saw a post on social media about Manitoba-based CBC employees on their way to her community without being tested for Covid-19 and, more importantly, not having to quarantine like everyone else in the community.

Travellers on medical from Baker Lake, after isolating for 14 days in Winnipeg, shared a plane with two of the CBC staff, first from Winnipeg to Rankin Inlet and then from Rankin to Baker Lake.

Joan Hitkati spends some time on a successful hunt with her brother, Hugh Ikoe, out on the land near Baker Lake this past month. Hitkati is concerned that CBC has allowed Manitoba-based staff to come to the Kivalliq without a need to self-isolate.
photo courtesy of Joan Hitkati

Hitkati, 72, said she was afraid for the health of community members.

She said she’s grateful that Nunavut residents have been under strict protection measures for their safety, and wonders why that would be risked for employees from the CBC.

“All that isolation and millions of dollars spent would all be useless should ‘essential workers’ get careless and spread the virus,” said Hitkati. “I feel it would not be fair to hundreds of Nunavut residents who valiantly obeyed all the rules to prevent the virus (from coming here). Someone tell me, what’s essential about CBC workers coming to Qamanittuaq?”

Jane Tran, regional manager of communications, marketing and brand for CBC’s Northern and Saskatchewan regions, stated that CBC sent four employees from its transmission services division in Winnipeg to Baker Lake on Oct. 29 to perform “critical emergency” tower repair work.

“This work was required to keep our FM radio broadcast on the air,” Tran stated.

CBC staff in the area have been approved for travel by the territorial chief public health officer in writing after staff filled out the Nunavut travel form. The travellers have been made aware of, and are abiding by, all required health precautions, according to Tran.

She noted that the tower repair in Baker Lake has been completed and the two tower contractors returned to Winnipeg on Sunday. The remaining two staff have work to finish in Arviat until Wednesday, she added.

Hitkati said everyone should have to play by the same rules with Covid-19.

“The same rules should be applied to everyone who are coming up to Nunavut, especially from Winnipeg.

“I myself would refuse to get on the same plane if I knew there were non-isolated, non-tested persons on the same plane.

“Why are we put in a risky situation by their presence? At least warn us of such visitors so we can avoid them.”

Hitkati said she thinks everyone has been affected in every area of their lives due to the virus.

She said and that doesn’t just mean getting sick from the Covid-19 virus, because people are also being affected mentally by the pandemic.

“Just because we do not have cases yet in Nunavut, that doesn’t mean we’re worry-free.

“Like many other elders and younger Inuit from my community, I decided to postpone my medical appointments twice that I had waited more than 18 months for in the city.

“Having to have an escort would also mean a double risk for our community, family and contacts; not to mention the 14 days in isolation, which is very nikal’lungangnaq ihumamul’lu (stressful).

“If we’re going to be visited in our communities by people who have not been tested for Covid-19, and who do not have to isolate, we should be given awareness so we have the option of whether to take part in whatever it is they’re doing here.”

-with files from Ezra Black