Everyone reading this e-bulletin likely knows that Assist provides professional counselling services and peer support across Alberta, but did you know that we also provide these services to Nunavut lawyers and articling students?
This week, I am pleased to introduce you to John MacLean, Director of the Nunavut Lawyers’ Assistance Program (NuLAP). In his day job, John is Legal Counsel in the Legal and Constitutional Law Division of the Nunavut Department of Justice. He says that he has given more Charter advice since Nunavut locked down several weeks ago than ever before.
We thought you might be interested in how the Nunavut legal community is handling the COVID-19 pandemic and physical isolation. John told me that he had been baking and mentioned his grandmother’s rhubarb custard pie, so I asked him to enclose the recipe.
Please enjoy his Dispatch from Nunavut (and his grandmother’s pie recipe if you have flour on hand!).
Since moving to Nunavut in August 2010, I’ve done a lot of things that I didn’t expect: appearing in the Supreme Court of Canada, negotiating high-risk commercial agreements, and serving on the Law Society executive to name but three. In my day job as legal counsel for the Nunavut Department of Justice, I provide legal advice to ten government departments on all areas of civil law. Part of this job includes working with departments to develop new laws. I was part of the team that developed the new Public Health Act
, replacing 50-year old legislation with a modern and comprehensive Act, which includes special powers for use during public health emergencies such as pandemics. The Act came into force on January 2020 – just in time for COVID-19.
Since March 24 I have been responsible for advising the Chief Public Health Officer, and have been writing orders restricting travel to Nunavut, prohibiting public and social gatherings, and other measures designed to slow the spread of COVID-19 in Nunavut. We are currently the last place in Canada with no confirmed or suspected cases. To accomplish this, we all but closed our borders to non-residents. Returning residents must spend at least 14 days in quarantine in the south before coming home. These are drastic measures to be sure; but our health care system isn’t equipped to deal with a pandemic and the places where we usually send our most critical cases – Ottawa, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Yellowknife – are facing their own COVID-19 challenges.
Most lawyers in the territory are currently working from home. A few of us are designated essential and are still reporting to work. The Court is closed to all non-emergency matters until July 3, and all court circuits are postponed. For the first time ever, our Law Society Annual General Meeting will be a teleconference. My colleagues at the Department of Justice are helping the government navigate every aspect of the pandemic response, from novel human resources questions, privacy protection, urgent procurement, and emergency assistance to people and businesses.
In some respects, we were reasonably equipped to deal with this new reality. We’re used to conducting meetings by teleconference. We frequently experience shortages of food and supplies. We’re used to coming up with creative solutions to problems. The fantastic little coffee shop across the street from my office has fully embraced take-out only service and has actually upped its game. What has buoyed me during this pandemic has been the fact that all of the people whom you expect to count on in a crisis have been at work and doing their best.
Yet I still miss seeing people at the office. I miss the random conversations and laughter. While I never thought I’d say this, I am starting to miss face-to-face meetings. The uncertainty is a constant challenge: will we get to travel for summer vacation this year? Will my favourite independent stores and restaurants in the south – places that I look forward to going every time I travel out of territory – survive? Most of all, how long is all of this sustainable? We’re not meant to work at this frenetic pace for any sustained period.
Lizzie Post, co-host of Awesome Etiquette
(one of my favourite podcasts) suggests adopting the affirmation “I can, and I will.” For example, “I can talk with my family on skype, and I will see them again” or “I can re-read my travel journal and I will plan my next adventure.” I’ve been trying to do this, along with daily mindfulness in the form of 30 minutes doing Yoga with Adriene
on YouTube. My sisters convinced me to try online yoga for 30 days in January, and I’ve kept it up. It helps me get to sleep and it takes the kinks out of my back, critically important when I can’t have my monthly massage therapy appointment.
As NuLAP Director, I also have to remind myself to follow my own advice. If I need to, I can call Assist using the number on the back of my Law Society card. The mental health costs of this pandemic have yet to be calculated, but I predict that the demand for services will exceed the supply for the foreseeable future.
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic I’ve been adding new things to the “I never thought I’d do this” list. I think we all have. In a way I find it comforting that I’m playing an active role in the solution by doing what lawyers do best: listening to our clients and helping them solve their problems.
Rhubarb Custard Pie
From the recipe box of my grandmother, Isabel (Freestone) Fay (1915-2003)
2 ½ - 3 cups sliced rhubarb
1 cup sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 Tablespoon melted butter
1 egg white, beaten
Enough pastry for a double-crust pie; I use America’s Test Kitchen’s recipe for Foolproof Pie Dough
- Toss rhubarb with the sugar, flour, eggs, and melted butter
- Line the pie plate with pastry and chill for 30 minutes; roll out a disc of pie dough into a 10” circle; cut into thin strips
- Add rhubarb mixture to chilled pie shell
- Cover with a solid or lattice top; brush the top with the beaten egg white
- Bake at 425 degrees F for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 350 degrees F for 30 minutes
- Cool for at least 3 hours before serving