Layoffs of 12 unvaccinated employees at Canadian North had ‘minimal’ impact on operations, says airline

A Canadian North plane in the community of Cambridge Bay in Canada’s Arctic territory of Nunavut. (Eilis Quinn/Eye on the Arctic)

The airline is trying to clear a cargo backlog to Qikiqtaaluk communities

Canadian North has laid off 12 employees who refused to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Andrew Pope, the airline’s vice-president of customer and commercial, said the airline has a vaccination policy, but enforcing it hasn’t had much of an effect on operations.

“I would say that the impact caused by that has been minimal,” said Pope.

He said other factors, like bad weather in Nunavut and staff needing to isolate because of COVID-19, have created other challenges.

“Those necessary absences [because of isolation] are having impacts on our operation,” said Pope.

Arctic Ventures in Iqaluit Jan. 8. (Jackie McKay/CBC)

Cargo delays led to empty shelves for several days in Iqaluit stores last week.

Earlier this week, Duane Wilson, vice-president of stakeholder relations for Arctic Co-operatives Ltd., said producer orders usually come about every three days — but an order scheduled to arrive for Arctic Ventures in Iqaluit last Wednesday came in on Sunday instead.

“Especially with perishable goods, there just isn’t that kind of buffer inventory to be able to handle a delay like that,” Wilson said. “That’s what resulted in the shelves being in deplorable conditions.”

In general, Pope said, the flights between Ottawa and Iqaluit have been running smoothly and there is no longer a backlog between these locations, but the airline has struggled to reach other communities.

“It has been a different story for some of the communities outside of Iqaluit in the Qikiqtaaluk region,” said Pope. ” We certainly have seen a large number of flight cancellations to those destinations.”

Pope added it is very difficult to recover from the backlog once a cargo flight is missed. Canadian North says they are prioritizing cargo flights to communities by cancelling passenger flights in favour of cargo flights.

“[With] travel volumes being significantly depressed as a result of COVID-19, it made more sense to prioritize our cargo operations,” said Pope.

Pope said flights to communities last weekend were stable. If that continues for the next several days, the backlog should clear.

The airline is also hiring other carriers to deliver cargo.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: Food insecurity a public health crisis that needs action, says Canadian Inuit org, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Finland’s farming sector in crisis: report, Yle News

Norway: Alarm bells ringing for Atlantic salmon in northern Norway, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: 2018 drought took toll on Swedish farmers’ mental and fiscal health, research says, Radio Sweden

United States: This Alaskan spice shop brings new flavors to Indigenous dishes, Alaska Public Media

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