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@yellowknifememes returns after overnight suspension

A meme from the @yellowknifememes account.
A meme from the @yellowknifememes account.


An Instagram account created to celebrate the absurdity of life as an NWT evacuee has returned after a brief suspension.

The @yellowknifememes account acquired 1,600 followers in two days, an astronomical growth rate for a city of 20,000 inhabitants, sharing a medley of memes that mocked the apparent inconsistencies and outrages of a life displaced.

For example, an image showing a vehicle swerving wildly toward an offramp marked “state of emergency” summed up, for many, the whiplash from weeks of what felt like sudden government reversals on long-held positions. (On August 14, officials seeking to reassure residents said only a “massive kind of incident” would trigger an evacuation of Yellowknife by road and air. Two days later, Yellowknife was evacuated by road and air.)

“It was keeping me going,” one follower despaired when account creator Brie O’Keefe, a Yellowknife resident, shared the news of its suspension on Wednesday evening.



Noting Instagram owner Meta’s current ban on the sharing of news – a significant concern during and after the evacuation – fellow resident Tom McLennan asked: “Did Meta consider it news?”

A meme lightly mocks the lack of clarity about the exact timing of the “phases” in which residents would be brought home.

O’Keefe told Cabin Radio she didn’t know why the account was suspended.

She said a message from Instagram stated the account was accused of not being “a real person,” and she had to upload a selfie and a code to prove she was not a bot.

By Thursday morning, that review appeared to have been successful: the account was back online.



“It’s not really about me,” O’Keefe had said. “When I started, I was creating maybe three memes a day and uploading maybe 40 to 50 that other people sent in, that were great. It was a real community effort.”

While most memes were fairly generic summaries of the distress common to evacuees right now, others focused on specific topics: the supposed “convoy” heading to Yellowknife being one example.

The actions of Katrina Nokleby, the Great Slave MLA, were another. Several of the memes riffed on Nokleby’s controversial re-entry to Yellowknife, which has become a social media flashpoint, dividing those Yellowknifers who believe the MLA’s actions were correct from those who believe she acted irresponsibly.

“I don’t think it was Katrina Nokleby personally [that requested the suspension], but I do think she has people who really support her who may not have found those memes funny,” O’Keefe acknowledged, while arguing that public figures were “fair game” for such critique, whereas regular employees deserve greater protection.

Nokleby, for the record, politely denied having anything to do with the account’s suspension. She “barely” uses Instagram, she said, adding that she understood people needed to use the humour in memes to cope with their current situation.

Confusion between phases, steps and stages of various re-entry plans briefly gripped evacuees.

O’Keefe had expressed hope that the account would ultimately be liberated and restored.

“It’s all about delving into the unique experiences of an evacuee, and a lot of them are really joyful,” she said of the memes, which were still flooding in up until the account’s suspension.

“What’s on people’s minds are the memes that I get, and that’s really nice.

“I get 10 to 20 messages a day that just say, ‘Thank you so much, this has made me laugh when things are really difficult.’ I think that’s why people jumped on it. We aren’t all together but we are going through a shared experience, and these memes let us laugh and have inside jokes with one another.”