Northern Sask. mayor calls for checkpoints restricting out-of-province travellers

Green Lake’s mayor says he wants further measures introduced to prevent people who aren’t from Saskatchewan from travelling through his community, as the province’s northwest region deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mayor Ric Richardson said he’s seen a major influx of traffic in his community. He said he knows there are cabins near the community, located about 300 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon, that are owned by people who don’t normally live in th province. 

He said he wants the government to consider restricting travel into northern Saskatchewan by out-of-province people. 

“There are no checkpoints or roadblocks restricting access and since we’re now in tourist season, and Green Lake is a tourism destination for many people, especially [from] Alberta, we’re noticing a major influx of traffic that we have no ability to stop,” Richardson said. 

Ric Richardson, mayor of Green Lake, says he and other northern leaders had been asking the province to close the north nearly one month before travel restrictions were brought into place by the government. (Marcel Petit)

Richardson said a security company from the northern region established a checkpoint north of Green Lake for about two days. 

He said the province then took over the checkpoint for about one day, but access has not been limited east or west of Green Lake.

The Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency previously said checkpoints established in the province’s northern regions would not be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

An email to the Ministry of Government Relations, asking for response to Richardson’s proposal, was not returned by deadline.

The Saskatchewan NDP has asked Premier Scott Moe to consider introducing checkpoints at the Alberta and Saskatchewan borders, but Moe rejected that idea.

Checkpoints came almost 1 month after ask

Richardson said northern leaders were asking the government for checkpoints as early as March 30 — two weeks before COVID-19 was first reported in the area.

“We felt, by restricting access and opening up checkpoints at all access points to our northwest region, we would be able to stop COVID-19 from entering,” he said. 

“We know, based on many cultural and economic conditions, that if it came in, it would be catastrophic.”

The leaders, he said, were told that the government would have to pass legislation allowing them to legally shut down the north.

Checkpoints were established by the northern Incident Command Centre, a collaboration between leadership of First Nation, Metis and municipalities along Highway 155, on April 27. 

Three days later, the provincial government announced around travel, including measures that prevented all non-critical travel into and through the Northern Saskatchewan Administrative District.

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