Inuit gov in Atlantic Canada postpones election over COVID-19 concerns

The Nunatsiavut Assembly in the community of Hopedale in Atlantic Canada. The presidential election here has been delayed until October. (Courtesy Nunatsiavut Government)
The May 5 election for the president of Nunatsiavut, the Inuit region of the Atlantic Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, has been postponed until October 6 amidst fears over the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“In light of the COVID-19 public health emergency, the inability to access appropriate polling areas, uncertainties respecting timely mail delivery for mail-in ballots, and also the imposition of requirements on public gatherings and physical distancing have resulted in the reality that it is not possible to hold the election in the immediate future,” said Nunatsiavut First Minister Tyler Edmunds in a news release on Monday.

“Therefore, there is no choice but to postpone the election to a time when it is hoped the public health situation has improved.”

Nunatsiavut’s population of 2560 is spread out between five communities along the Atlantic coast: Nain, Hopedale, Makkovik, Postville and Rigolet.

As of Tuesday evening there were no confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in any of the villages but there are huge worries that if it did penetrate the region it would quickly overwhelm the communities’ limited health resources. 

On March 19, the Nunatsiavut government asked people to refrain from travelling to the region.

Self-isolation required 

On Friday, the government asked anyone coming home, including students and staff, to self-isolate for 14 days in the town of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, the transport hub into Nunatsiavut, before travelling on to the communities in the Labrador Inuit Settlement Area.

Write to Eilís Quinn at eilis.quinn(at)cbc.ca

Related stories from around the North:

Arctic: Roundup of COVID-19 responses around the Arctic, Eye on the Arctic

Canada: Inuit gov. in Atlantic Canada calls for people to stop travel to and from their region, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finns continue with ski holiday plans despite travel advisory, Yle News

Greenland: COVID-19: Arctic science expedition postpones flight campaign after trainee tests positive for virus, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norway to focus on civil society, press freedom as chair of Barents Euro-Arctic Council, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: Arctic oil plans in Norway and Russia disrupted amid COVID-19 crisis, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Why are Sweden’s politicians taking a different tack for coronavirus?, Radio Sweden

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn, Eye on the Arctic

Eilís Quinn is an award-winning journalist and manages Radio Canada International’s Eye on the Arctic news cooperation project. Eilís has reported from the Arctic regions of all eight circumpolar countries and has produced numerous documentary and multimedia series about climate change and the issues facing Indigenous peoples in the North.

Her investigative report "Death in the Arctic: A community grieves, a father fights for change," about the murder of Robert Adams, a 19-year-old Inuk man from Arctic Quebec, received the silver medal for “Best Investigative Article or Series” at the 2019 Canadian Online Publishing Awards. The project also received an honourable mention for excellence in reporting on trauma at the 2019 Dart Awards in New York City.

Her report “The Arctic Railway: Building a future or destroying an culture?” on the impact a multi-billion euro infrastructure project would have on Indigenous communities in Arctic Europe was a finalist at the 2019 Canadian Association of Journalists award in the online investigative category.

Her multimedia project on the health challenges in the Canadian Arctic, "Bridging the Divide," was a finalist at the 2012 Webby Awards.

Her work on climate change in the Arctic has also been featured on the TV science program Découverte, as well as Le Téléjournal, the French-Language CBC’s flagship news cast.

Eilís has worked for media organizations in Canada and the United States and as a TV host for the Discovery/BBC Worldwide series "Best in China."

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