Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut September 23, 2016 - 7:00 am

Nunavut minister praises police, schools for swift response to bomb scare

But police have few details on source of threats

SARAH ROGERS
Kiilinik High School Principal Roman Mahnic unlocks the door for an RCMP officer Sept. 22 at 8:30 a.m.—the Cambridge Bay school was just getting underway when the Nunavut-wide alert closing schools was announced. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Kiilinik High School Principal Roman Mahnic unlocks the door for an RCMP officer Sept. 22 at 8:30 a.m.—the Cambridge Bay school was just getting underway when the Nunavut-wide alert closing schools was announced. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

While few people believed the Sept. 22 bomb threats against Nunavut’s 43 schools held much weight, officials were more than happy to confirm the territory is safe from harm.

Just before 9 a.m. that day, Education Minister Paul Quassa received a phone call and a copy of a fax sent to police, claiming bombs had been placed in schools in all three regions of the territory.

“We’ve seen bomb threats here in Iqaluit [schools], but this is first time there’s been a bomb threat made in all of our schools,” Quassa said.

By the time he made contact with senior education officials—many of whom were in Iqaluit for meetings—classes had already started for the day in schools through the Qikiqtani region.

Officials had to decide how to respond to the threats, taking into consideration similar threats made this week in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, and quickly chose to put schools on notice to evacuate.

“All the schools were closed immediately,” Quassa said, with principals directed to use Nunavut’s crisis response manual, which dictates local evacuation plans.

“It went very smoothly. The principals did a very good job of getting everyone out of the schools in about 10 minutes.”

The school population across the Qikiqtani is made up of about 5,000 students, roughly half of Nunavut’s total elementary and secondary school population.

Although schools in Nunavut’s Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions hadn’t opened for the day, the parents of some 9,990 students across Nunavut had to make alternative arrangements for their children.

“A lot of parents were working [but] the response was really quick,” Quassa said. “I think we’re well-prepared for emergency situations.”

The RCMP’s response was equally fast; Quassa said police across Nunavut were able to sweep through schools that morning, determining by noon that the bomb threats were unfounded.

“We take this kind of threat very seriously, even though we are very isolated from the rest of Canada,” he said.

“It was a relief to hear there was nothing serious.”

But as police cleared the territory’s schools to re-open the afternoon of Sept. 22, the RCMP were responding to another scare, this time directed at southbound flights preparing to depart Iqaluit’s airport.

Police were seen sweeping at least one Ottawa-bound jet before the aircraft was cleared for take-off and the threat was also found to be non-credible.

Now the Nunavut RCMP said it’s working with other agencies across the country to track who is responsible for the false threats faxed to Nunavut and other provinces this week.

From Ottawa, the RCMP headquarters wouldn’t comment on the investigation nor would the force say if the four bomb threat incidents reported across the country this week are related.

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