John Streicker, minister of community services, announces new enforcement measures being taken under the Civil Emergency Measures Act to curve the spread of COVID-19 during a press conference in Whitehorse on April 2. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

New measures make previous COVID-19 orders enforceable

Violators could face a fine, up to six months in jail or both

The Yukon government has announced new measures being taken under the under the Civil Emergency Measures Act, making all previous orders and recommendations enforceable.

Community services minister John Streicker and justice minister Tracy McPhee presented these measures on April 2, referred to as the Civil Emergency Measures Health Protection Orders.

Streicker said these measures would make the orders made by Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley enforceable under the act.

“We’re taking strong steps to keep our communities safe and protect from COVID-19 while also keeping society running,” Streicker said.

This means, he explained, that anyone entering the Yukon will be stopped by an enforcement officer.

The person entering the territory will have to fill out a detailed form, including information such as travel plans, a phone number, planned stops and the person’s primary residence.

He said contact information would be used to confirm compliance with orders.

If the person is not from the Yukon, he or she would have to detail all routes and planned stops. The individual will also have to sign a declaration that they do not have COVID-19 symptoms.

Failure to follow any of these new measures will be an offence.

“They are the law,” Streicker said.

The officers will be stationed at airports and all road entrance points into the territory. Streicker said there would be stations at multiple border crossings in the Yukon. He said these check stations will be where the Alaska, South Klondike, Stewart-Cassiar and Dempster highways, and the Haines Road come into the Yukon.

The Top of the World Highway is closed, and therefore not a present concern.

“At all of our points of entry, we will station people to talk to all of those coming through,” Streicker said.

He added that the government can’t shut down the border as that would make getting telecommunications, food and other essential services into the territory impossible.

For Yukoners returning home, they must self-isolate for 14 days unless told otherwise. If an Alaska or Northwest Territories resident needs to pass through Yukon to get home, they can pass through, as long as they don’t stay in Yukon for more than 24 hours.

They will also get directions on how to move through the territory while limiting contact with Yukoners.

Residents of northern British Columbia in places typically accessed from the Yukon, like Lower Post or Atlin, will be treated as if their communities are in the Yukon. He explained this is recognizing that these communities get essential goods from the territory.

Mobilization of enforcement resources is a top priority and officers will be placed at the territory’s entry points in the coming days, he said.

“None of this is easy,” Streicker said.

McPhee said these orders are meant to protect Yukoners. She said peace officers and other officers with jurisdiction under other legislation will be able enforce these measures, adding that conservation officers, sheriffs, liquor inspectors, bylaw officers and First Nation land officers could be called in for enforcement.

The announcement extends enforcement powers to all of those categories.

She said these officers would be able to enforce self-isolation and prevent people from gathering in groups of more than 10.

Those that do not comply could be fined, get up to six months in jail or both.

She said this is the first step and that the next step is to introduce infrastructure so people can report violations.

“We ask Yukoners to be vigilant about their own behaviour and to remind their friends and family to abide by these new laws,” McPhee said.

She said there will not be a list of those convicted but reminded everyone that the court process is still public.

Streicker said there would be clear rules and procedures for essential or critical workers entering the territory.

He defined both as those providing services that are required for the basic function of society.

The difference, he explained, is critical workers provide services that preserve life, health and basic society function. This would include health sector workers, first responders, critical infrastructure workers and food transportation.

All travellers into the territory must self-isolate for 14 days, including essential workers. There are rare exceptions for the most critical service providers who may need to come into the territory, or for someone travelling home, through the Yukon, to another jurisdiction.

There are provisions in the guidelines to consider Yukon-based essential services travel and work between Yukon communities.

Mining is not considered critical, but has been deemed essential. McPhee added that those coming to Yukon to work in the mines must self-isolate for 14 days and that the self-isolation cannot be done at the mine site or work camp.

The rules surrounding critical and essential services are available for download online in a PDF document here.

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

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