The Government of Nunavut has affirmed its continued support of the neighbouring Northwest Territories, where wildfires recently forced an evacuation order for the city of Yellowknife.

Wildfires have been burning across the NWT for days, and on the evening of Aug. 17, got close enough to the capital that it needed to be emptied in the interest of safety.

“Our hearts are heavy in Nunavut today as we look to our neighbours in the Northwest Territories where wildfires are devastating their communities,” said Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok in an Aug. 18 news release. “We have connected personally with our friend and colleague, NWT Premier Caroline Cochrane.

“As the capital city of Yellowknife and surrounding communities work to evacuate some 20,000 residents, we also acknowledge the many communities throughout the NWT under evacuation orders and alerts. We know many families are displaced from their homes, including the relatives and loved ones of Nunavummiut. This tragedy is deeply felt.”

The GN also promised its continued support of all Nunavummiut affected by the fires burning across the NWT, and assured that “all Nunavut residents under the government’s care are safe and have either left or are booked to leave Yellowknife by noon Friday [Aug. 18],” including medical and duty travelers, and clients under the responsibility of Family Services and Justice.

On Wednesday evening, the release said, 85 medical travellers from Nunavut were flown from Yellowknife to Edmonton as part of a deal between the Departments of Health and Community and Government Services (CGS), and airline Canadian North.

Those travellers, all of whom made the trip safely, spent the night at Larga Kitikmeot in Leduc, Alberta, and are either continuing their medical care there or awaiting return to their communities.

“My heartfelt empathy extends to those affected by wildfires threatening communities in the Northwest Territories and to Nunavummiut journeying south to access medical care,” said Minister of Health John Main. “We appreciate your patience and understanding as we navigate this uncertainty and unforeseen challenges while prioritizing patient safety, well-being, and access to quality care.”

The release also revealed that the GN has created an inter-departmental committee to assess how the territory’s Kitikmeot region, which is connected to the South by Yellowknife, will be impacted by the situation, and promised continued contact with community leaders.

“This tragic situation in the NWT is one more example of the close connection between our communities in the North and the importance of working together to protect our communities against ever changing threats,” said CGS Minister David Joanasie. “The forest fires in the Northwest Territories are devastating and my department is fully committed to working with our counterparts in the Government of Northwest Territories and our communities here in Nunavut to respond to and recover from this unprecedented event.”

Nunavummiut with questions about upcoming medical appointments in Yellowknife are encouraged to contact their local health centre. Questions can also be directed to Kitikmeot Medical Travel toll-free at 1-844-886-8010 or 983-4506 and 983-5196 after hours.

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