New Travel Restrictions Affecting Northwest Saskatchewan

Authors: John Agioritis, Tom Richards, Rangi Jeerakathil, Erica Klassen

On May 19, 2020, Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer signed a new public health order restricting travel in and out of the northwest region of Saskatchewan, which includes the municipalities of La Loche and Buffalo Narrows.

A map of the northwest region is attached to the public health order.

The public health order rescinds previous orders that restricted travel in and out of the Northern Saskatchewan Administration District. You can read more about the former travel restrictions to the Northern Saskatchewan Administration District in our blogs: Government Announces Further Restrictions on Travel in Northern Saskatchewan, May 4, 2020 and Travel Restrictions to Control the Spread Of COVID-19 in Northern Saskatchewan, April 24, 2020.

First Nations communities affected by the order are the Birch Narrows Dene Nation, the Buffalo River Dene Nation, the Canoe Lake First Nation, the Clearwater River Dene Nation, and the English River First Nation. The full list of municipalities, recreational subdivisions and communities affected by the order is available here.

The public health order imposes two categories of travel restrictions on the northwest region. First, as a general rule, travel to or out of the northwest region is prohibited. This prohibition extends to travel to the northwest region from within Saskatchewan and from other jurisdictions. Second, again as a general rule, no person within the northwest region may travel outside of the community in which their primary residence is located.

That said, travel in and out of the northwest region and within northwest region communities is permitted in the following circumstances:

  • Persons may return to their primary residence.
  • Employees of, and persons delivering, critical public services and allowable business services.
  • Aboriginal persons engaging in activities that relate to their constitutionally protected right to hunt, fish and trap for food, or who are engaged in other traditional uses of land such as gathering plants for food and medicinal purposes or for carrying out ceremonial and spiritual observances and practices.
  • Persons who are travelling for medical treatment.
  • Persons travelling for the purposes of attending court where legally required to do so.
  • Travel to the community closest to a person’s community of primary residence to obtain essential goods and services when those goods and services are not available in the community of primary residence, subject to the following restrictions:
    • Persons must take the most direct route to obtain required essential goods and services;
    • Each household shall only utilize one vehicle and that vehicle must only contain household members; and
    • Such travel may occur a maximum of once per week.
  • Persons travelling outside the northwest region for medical treatment may stop to obtain essential goods and services outside of the northwest region, provided that only one person in the vehicle enters a retail establishment outside of the northwest region to purchase the essential goods and services.

The public health order will remain in place until the Chief Medical Health Officer declares there is no longer a public health threat.

As a result of the travel restrictions, employers would be well advised to consider the impact of the public health order restricting travel into northwest Saskatchewan and their workforces.

MLT Aikins LLP will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates regarding the northern travel restrictions as they become available. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our team if you would like to discuss the potential impact of this change on your business.