Inuit region of Arctic Quebec OKs church reopenings

St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Kuujjuaq, the administrative capital of Nunavik. (Courtesy Diocese of the Arctic)
With reported COVID-19 infections down to zero, Nunavik, the Inuit area of Arctic Quebec, has OK’d church reopenings in the region.

In a Facebook post this week, the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS) said churches could reopen for services if they respected certain conditions, but that the final decision would remain with the individual dioceses.

The conditions include:
  • keeping a two-metre distance between people who do not live in the same dwelling  living under the same roof
  • no handshakes, hugs, communion or other physical contact
  • recommendation of mask use (but not obligatory)
  • a recommendation to wash hands or use hand sanitzer when entering and leaving the church
  • no cash donations
  • that people with COVID-19 symptoms to not enter the church
“Respect, honour and awareness”

The Diocese of the Arctic, a group of Anglican parishes that covers Nunavik, as well as Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, said they have authorized reopenings in Nunavik but are leaving it up to the individual churches in the communities to determine their comfort level for resuming services. 

Reached on Friday in Yellowknife, Reverend David W. Parsons, the diocesan bishop, said they had also required additional COVID-19 mitigation members for churches choosing to reopen.

Kangiqsujuaq, a village in Nunavik. Church services may resume in communities like this one if approved be in the individual dioceses. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

He said the devastation of pandemics in the Arctic remains in recent memory and that he prefers to err on the side of caution and has had no pushback from clergy or laypeople.

“People in the North totally get it,” he said. “At the beginning of the pandemic we had two funerals planned in Nunavik, but when we contacted the community, they had already decided to cancel them before we’d even said anything. The attitude I’ve seen everywhere in the North has been respect, honour and awareness.”

Among the measures required by the diocese for churches wanting to reopen are wearing masks while singing, disinfecting the church before and after the service, and that the names of people attending services be recorded in case contact tracing needs to be done at a future date.

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

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian Northwest Territories ends state of emergency for 1st time during COVID-19 pandemic, CBC News

Finland: Russian tourists eager to book holidays in Finland despite border closure, Yle News

Greenland: Greenland extends COVID-19 entry requirements until July 20, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland revises COVID-19 border screening rules for citizens, residents, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norwegian Arctic wilderness tourism hit particularly hard by coronavirus, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: The city that builds Russia’s nuclear submarines now has more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s top epidemiologist admits he got COVID-19 strategy wrong, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska Highway travellers might be in for rough ride this summer, CBC News

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 a 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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