Return to sender: passengers sent back after arriving at Yellowknife Airport

Despite strict protocols around who is allowed into the Northwest Territories, there have been two recent instances of people arriving at the Yellowknife Airport who weren't supposed to.

An official with the territory's Municipal and Community Affairs Department said in the past two weeks, there were a couple of separate cases of people getting off an airplane in Yellowknife only to have to turn around the following day.

"We take care of them and we put them up and we make sure we make all the arrangements to send them back to where they need to go," said Ian Legaree, the operations section chief for North Slave with the territory's Municipal and Community Affairs Department.

"I'm sure they're disappointed they can't come to Yellowknife and visit but that's just the rules we're living under."

The N.W.T. has virtually banned all non-essential travel into the territory. Residents are allowed to return and essential workers are allowed to enter, but visitors from out of territory are restricted. 

"Occasionally someone simply wasn't aware. They assume they can travel. Like in normal times, you can travel anywhere in Canada you like. But occasionally some people just don't get the word and we have to deal with it here," Legaree said.

It's unclear where the people were coming from or the reasons why they were rejected. He said the territory pays for their stay in the hotel in order to monitor where they are.

It has been more than one month since the N.W.T. has had an active case of COVID-19. The territory's chief public health officer has said the highest risk right now is on the border and that restrictions would remain in place until a vaccine is available.

John Van Dusen / CBC

Arrivals into Yellowknife down 'significantly'

From March 27 to May 19, there were 1,087 arrivals at the Yellowknife Airport. It's down "significantly" said Legaree.

When passengers enter the arrivals area, they snake their way through a cordoned off line keeping two metres apart. 

They're then asked a series of questions by staff about who they are and why they're here.

Anne-Elizabeth Fauvel and her son, Ewen Fauvel-Burns, returned to the city Friday after spending the last few months visiting family in France.

It took them three days before they arrived back home, flying from Paris to Montreal then onto Toronto and Calgary before arriving in Yellowknife.

"The whole planning on the trip was extremely difficult because I had different answers from different places," Fauvel said.

She said the trip itself went well. There were no lineups and the planes were almost empty.

She and her son will spend the next 14 days self-isolating at home. 

"I don't mind at all, we're pretty jet lagged right now," she said.

John Van Dusen / CBC

She said the arrival process was pretty simple and a good way to screen people. 

"I think it's a good idea to take precautions in Yellowknife because it is a small place and some people commute to northern communities and they don't want to bring the virus there."