On April 24, 2020, the government of Saskatchewan announced new travel restrictions for northern Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan's Chief Medical Health Officer signed a new public health order restricting all non-critical travel into northern Saskatchewan, specifically the Northern Saskatchewan Administration District ("NSAD"). This announcement follows the biggest one-day jump in new COVID-19 cases in Saskatchewan in over two weeks. 10 new cases were reported in the province on April 24, 2020, notably within the communities of La Loche and the English River First Nation.
The Public Health Order has now been made public and it states that travel in or out of the NSAD is prohibited, whether from within Saskatchewan or out of province, except for the following:
- Persons whose primary residence is in the NSAD (though people are strongly encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel within northern communities);
- Businesses and employees delivering critical public services (see the full list of allowable businesses here);
- Aboriginal persons engaging in constitutionally protected activities, such as hunting, fishing, trapping, and other traditional uses of the land; and
- Persons who travel to or out of the NSAD for medical treatment.
The boundaries of the district are currently defined under section 74 of The Northern Municipalities Regulations.
The NSAD covers approximately half of Saskatchewan's land area but contains less than 4% of the province's population. It encompasses nearly all unorganized areas in northern Saskatchewan, including northern settlements and resort subdivisions. See https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/first-nations-metis-and-northern-community-businesses/economic-development/northern-administration-district. The territories of Treaty Nos. 5, 6, 8 and 10 and five regions of the Métis Nation also intersect with the NSAD and are impacted by the April 24, 2020 Public Health Order.
As previously noted, the Saskatchewan Health Authority had previously issued an advisory for northern Saskatchewan on April 18, 2020, strongly urging residents to avoid non-essential travel between northern Saskatchewan and northern Alberta, after reports of an outbreak of COVID-19 at an oil sands facility north of Fort McMurray. Communities in the NSAD now have full legal authority to enforce the travel restrictions. Checkpoints have been established by northern communities along all highways leading into northern Saskatchewan, which likely includes checkpoints at the Alberta and Manitoba borders. Staffing of the checkpoints will continue to be directed by northern leadership. The provincial government has offered fire suppression staff to support the checkpoints and to provide any other support required.
As a result of the travel restrictions, employers would be well-advised to consider the impact of the public health order restricting travel into northern Saskatchewan and their workforces.
Article orignally published on 24 April 2020
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.