COVID-19 and Council Business
Posted on April 22, 2020
March and April have been a quite a bit different than we expected here at WMAC NS as our community (Whitehorse) and the world adjusts to working from home and social distancing. For the time being, we have closed our physical office, but continue working from our houses. Our quarterly Council meeting that was scheduled to be held in Whitehorse was shifted to a digital affair. And, of course, all travel for the foreseeable future has been put on hold.
We are lucky in that much of our work can carry on as before. However, our annual summer meeting on the Yukon North Slope and travel to Inuvik and Aklavik are not currently possible. Technology does wonders to connect us, but nothing can replace gathering together, coffee in hand, midnight sun circling above - we're looking forward to those in-person meetings with colleagues and friends farther north!
Travel limitations have also had a considerable effect on Yukon North Slope research. Researchers from around the world visit places like Qikiqtaruk and Imniarvik each year to study permafrost, plants, and polar bears. Field work for the summer of 2020 has been cancelled, though, and many long-term datasets will have a gap in them, going forward. It also means that IFA supported research by our partners (including Yukon Government, the Canadian Wildlife Service, and Parks Canada) will largely be put on hold.
With both parks closed to visitors (this doesn't apply Inuvialuit) and all Arctic cruise ship traffic prohibited in 2020, the Yukon North Slope will be a much quieter place this summer. That doesn't mean the landscape will be "people-less" though! Inuvialuit continue to travel, hunt, and visit seasonal camps. This deep connection is all the more critical in times of uncertainty, as folks are able to bolster community food security through harvesting and boost mental health by being active on the land.
While 2020 is shaping up to be anything but normal, our Council's efforts upholding our mandate under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement have not wavered. The wildlife, wildlife habitat, and traditional use of the Yukon North Slope remain our focus.