A review of the GNWT’s operational response to the pandemic.
In its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) was relatively successful in minimizing serious illness and death, avoiding overburdening health care resources, and limiting societal disruption. While the GNWT’s pandemic response had profound impacts on government operations and residents’ daily lives, the Northwest Territories avoided community spread of the virus for months, particularly in the period before vaccines were available.
After the state of public health emergency was lifted, the Premier tasked a small group of public servants with conducting a review of the GNWT’s operational response to the pandemic. The review considered four aspects of the GNWT response: emergency management coordination at the outset of the pandemic; the implementation and coordination of public health measures, including the establishment of the COVID-19 Coordinating Secretariat; the policy and legislative framework for public health emergencies; and compliance and enforcement measures.
Over the summer of 2022, a public survey was conducted, and 53 interviews were conducted with GNWT employees who were directly involved in the pandemic response. Input was also sought from Indigenous Governments through a similar survey and invitations for an interview. Members of the Legislative Assembly and community government leaders were also invited to respond to a survey and participate in an interview.
Responses to the surveys and interviews provided important insights into how the GNWT might have improved its pandemic response and be better prepared for future public health emergencies of this magnitude and duration. The review makes 23 recommendations for the GNWT to better coordinate measures, improve accountability and better serve the public and support its employees in responding effectively to a public health emergency. The impacts of the pandemic were significant, far-reaching and involved all GNWT departments and agencies. It is hoped that positive aspects of the pandemic response, and lessons learned from the experience can inform the GNWT’s path forward in providing services to residents in a time of public health emergency.