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A CC-150 Polaris aircraft arrives at the Yellowknife airport carrying Canadian Armed Forces soldiers from 2e Battalion, Royal 22e Régiment on August 14, 2023. Photo: Master Corporal Alana Morin, Joint Task Force North, Canadian Armed Forces
A CC-150 Polaris aircraft arrives at the Yellowknife airport carrying Canadian Armed Forces soldiers. Master Corporal Alana Morin/Joint Task Force North

Returning to Yellowknife: Questions and answers

So you’ve been told you can go back to Yellowknife.

Now what?

You’ve got questions. We’ve got questions. On this page, we’re writing down all the questions we’re actively pursuing – and then adding answers as they become available to us.

If you have a question that isn’t covered here and which you think affects a sizeable number of evacuees, let us know. Similarly, if you know a reliable answer exists to a question below and we haven’t got it yet, email the answer or a link to it.

This is not a comprehensive list of questions. We know there are millions of concerns out there, but these are the main ones we’ve heard so far.



Keep coming back to this page to see what’s new.

Latest updates:
3:23pm adding more Canadian North information
3:20pm adding facility reopening dates
6:05pm adding water and garbage information
5:53pm adding Canadian North information
5:44pm adding WestJet info, Whitehorse and Winnipeg flight info, garbage amnesty info
2:36pm adding airlift flight ID answer and more pets-on-planes info


Will there be an advice number people can call, or an email address, for guidance and specific questions?
No sign of such a number or email so far.

Driving home

Regardless of supports provided so far, some residents outright do not have the money to drive home. Will there be free gas along the way? If so, where?
Answer: There is no free gas. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2



If there’s no free gas and people can’t afford the drive, who do they talk to?
Answer: Wait for your $750 payment to arrive (assuming you applied for one), which may mean waiting till the end of the week. If you don’t have that payment coming, there is no obvious alternative source of support. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

Will everyone have their $750 travel payment before the journey home?
Answer: Payments are expected to arrive on Tuesday and Wednesday but could take longer. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

How will we know the drive is going to be safe?
Answer: Rebecca Alty has stressed the date will be moved if there is a major safety concern. “As we’ve seen … the highway will open when it’s safe. This can be intermittent, so watch the GNWT’s website closely,” she said. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

When does the checkpoint at Behchokǫ̀ lift?
Answer: Noon on Wednesday. Source: Mayor of Yellowknife

What checkpoints exist pre-Wednesday to ensure only essential workers are heading north? When do those other checkpoints lift?
Answer: There are no other checkpoints related to re-entering Yellowknife. (The others are for highway safety, like between Enterprise and the Kakisa access road, and aren’t there to check for essential workers or regulate travel to Yellowknife. But the Behchokǫ̀ checkpoint will not allow anyone past except essential workers till noon on Wednesday.) Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

Am I going to get stuck for a long time at a roadblock if fires or smoke reach the highway?
Answer: Hopefully if that happens it won’t be for long, the GNWT said. “We’ve only had a couple of long-duration closures, excluding last night for the wind event,” said the Department of Infrastructure’s Jeffrey Edison on Saturday. “That’s why everybody is saying you need to prepare for this. It just changes so rapidly, you have to be prepared that the road is going to close. Have water, food and essentials on hand. There is no expectation it is going to be closed for days on end.” Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

Will there be gas in Behchokǫ̀?
Answer: The GNWT says no. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

Will Fort Providence have enough gas?
Answer: The Department of Infrastructure says Big River will have roughly double the capacity it had on the way out. “There are no concerns about fuel. We have ordered six extra tankers to be on hand as well. There’s other fuel stations. Northern doesn’t have diesel but has gas, the Snowshoe Inn has a Petro-Pass card lock.” Source: GNWT press conference, September 2



Is it true that Big River won’t be operating 24/7 this time?
Answer: Big River gas station in Fort Providence said some summer workers have gone back to university so it doesn’t have enough staff to operate around the clock. It’ll open from 6am till midnight and will try to extend those hours but don’t rely on that. (You can always park there and wait for Big River to reopen.) Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

Is there any other gas help I should know about?
Answer: There will be tow trucks with emergency gas, and when you get to Fort Providence there will be people directing traffic so that vehicles not needing gas can loop around any gas lineups. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2
You can also watch the Snowshoe Inn live feed to see how the line at its gas bar is doing.

Will there be more police along the highways?
Answer: Yes. “People can expect to see an increased police presence in northern Alberta and along the highways leading to Yellowknife. We understand that everyone is eager to return home, but we want everyone to make it home safely. RCMP officers will be enforcing speed limits and adherence to the extra traffic controls planned at the Deh Cho Bridge and near Big River Service Centre. Officers will also be stopping to check on stranded motorists to connect them with assistance.” Source: RCMP press release, September 3

Are there extra washrooms?
Answer: Expect extra portable washrooms around Fort Providence, North Arm Park and the Rae access road. Source: GNWT website

Flying home

When will commercial flights resume?
Answer: As of September 4, the Department of Infrastructure said it expects to reopen the airport on Wednesday, September 6 – helped by airlines reducing their own planned operations that day. The extent to which the number of flights might be limited on Thursday onward is not clear. Source: GNWT press conference, September 4

What is my airline saying about when flights restart?
Air Canada says some flights between Yellowknife, Edmonton and Vancouver will resume on Wednesday. Source: Air Canada by email
Air North says it plans to resume its scheduled service into and out of Yellowknife from Saturday, September 9. Source: Air North by email
Air Tindi says it hopes to resume scheduled flights from Saturday, September 9. Source: Air Tindi’s president by email
Canadian North says its full schedule will be available from Sunday, September 10. Source: Canadian North by email
WestJet says it plans to resume scheduled flights on Wednesday. Source: WestJet by email

How do I book a place on an airlift flight? Where will they fly from?
Answer: The GNWT has opened a pre-registration process so it can figure out who needs flights, book aircraft, and assign you to a flight. Source: GNWT press release, September 2

Where will the airlift flights depart from?
Answer: Alberta, Whitehorse and Winnipeg. A precise Alberta airport list wasn’t available as of Saturday, September 2. Source: GNWT press release, September 2
There will be one flight from each of Whitehorse and Winnipeg, both tentatively scheduled for September 7. Source: GNWT press conference, September 4



If I need help getting to an airport for an airlift flight, what supports are available?
Answer: There’ll be transportation from evacuation centres to airports. You’ll be told what’s available when you are given your flight details. Source: GNWT press release, September 2

What if I’m not in one of the cities flights are leaving from?
Answer: So far there are no obvious supports for this, but the GNWT says it is working with Alberta on “collection points.” Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

Do I need any ID for the airlift flights?
Answer: “As was the case with evacuation flights, travel with expired ID and without ID will be permitted.” Source: GNWT Q&A, September 4

On what day will the last airlift flight back to Yellowknife leave?
Answer: As of Saturday, September 2, the GNWT expects flights to begin on Wednesday, September 6 and continue “for an estimated five days.” Source: GNWT press release, September 2

What’s the deal with pets on the flights back? Crates needed or will just a leash be OK, as it was for the flights out?
Answer: “Pets will be permitted on all flights and should be crated whenever possible. If crates are not available, cats must be harnessed, dogs must be leashed, and both must be held as close as possible at all times. Other pets must be contained in appropriate cages. There are animal rescues in Edmonton and Calgary where evacuees can get crates. Pick up is preferred as volunteer capacity to bring them to airports is limited.” Click here for the list of animal rescues where you can acquire crates. Source: GNWT Q&A, September 4

Can anyone help me with my pets when I land in Yellowknife?
Answer: “The NWT SPCA can help with transporting pets once you arrive in Yellowknife. Carriers can be made available to get your pets home. If you can’t take your pets in a taxi or another vehicle for any reason, someone from the NWT SPCA can bring your pet to your house for you. For people experiencing financial challenges, the NWT SPCA is also ready to help with cat food and kitty litter, dog food, hamster/rabbit food and bedding, and feed for birds and fish.” Source: GNWT Q&A, September 4

I have luggage that needs to come home – maybe more than carry-on. What can I bring?
Answer: You get two 50-lb checked bags on the way back, but they can’t be oversized bags. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

When the airlifts land in Yellowknife, how do I get from the airport back home?
Answer: There will be taxis and volunteer drivers available for evacuees that need a ride. Taxi vouchers will be provided as people arrive at the airport in Yellowknife. YKDFN will also have buses at the airport to transport YKDFN members home. Tłı̨chǫ Government will also be providing support for its citizens at the airport. Source: City of Yellowknife website, September 3



The city told drivers to bring three days of food home with them. Does that apply to air travellers, too?
Answer: “The city will be open – but with basic services. There will be food for purchase.  Grocery stores will be open but residents should be prepared for limited selection and longer lines.” Source: City of Yellowknife website, September 3

While you’re still in Alberta (or elsewhere)

When the evacuation order lifts, what happens to people’s coverage under their insurance if they’re still away from home and relying on insurance to cover food, accommodation or other costs?
Awaiting an answer on this.

Will free evacuee accommodation be extended past Wednesday to Thursday, Friday or beyond to allow folks to gradually choose when to come back, rather than all pile onto the highway on Wednesday?
Answer: Accommodation is being extended until at least September 8, which is Friday. The GNWT says it is working on solutions for anyone who needs longer – for medical or other reasons. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2
Note that some Calgary hotel occupants were told their rooms could not be extended beyond September 5 and are being moved. Source: Letters to evacuees and GNWT

What’s the logistics plan for High Level and nearby communities? How will people be able to readily find out if there’s room to stay there as they head home, and how will High Level be helped to cope?
Answer: There appear to be few, if any rooms available in High Level for the week ahead. The message from the GNWT at the September 2 press conference was to plan your journey carefully, and that may mean planning it to avoid relying on hotel accommodation in that area.

If High Level hotels say they are booked up for days, what is the recommendation as an alternative?
Answer: Delaying your travel where you can and leaning on insurance coverage if you have it were options suggested by GNWT spokespeople. And as a last resort, having necessary supplies in your vehicle. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

Will there be any change in services available in Alberta for South Slave evacuees?
Answer: The GNWT said on September 2: “Until Wednesday, we are going to be at our current levels. What will happen is an assessment of: as folks leave, what does that mean for those who are left and how do we provide the services that have been provided? We have extended stays until at least September 8 and we are using that time to assess what other supports need to be in place and what changes, if any, can be put in place. The support here in Alberta is not over, it will shift and change but we are already working on those plans.” Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

Back home in Yellowknife

When was the last water distribution and sewage pump-out for everyone on trucked services, so they know what kind of situation to expect when they get home?
Answer: “Upon arriving home, if you are on trucked water, it is advised to only use the water sitting in your tank for cooking or bathing purposes. Since the water has remained stagnant, if your tank has not been recently cleaned, it could be unfit for other uses. Please wait until a refill to use as drinking water. Regular water services are scheduled to begin on September 7. For those on piped water, do not be concerned if your water comes out discoloured when you initially turn it on. This is because it has remained stagnant for three weeks. As you would when you come back from a vacation, please run your taps for five to 10 minutes until it is clear and flush toilets.” Source: City of Yellowknife, September 5

There may be days, if not weeks, when many workers both for the GNWT and the private sector have neither school to send their kids to, nor childcare. How will the GNWT’s own staff be treated in that situation and what’s the recommendation to private-sector employers?
No answer yet.



What’s the estimated time by which grocery stores are expected to be operating normally, with enough supplies for all residents to rely on them? Will there be any restrictions in place to prevent panic-buying or hoarding?
Answer: The city says it isn’t aware of any stores putting restrictions in place. Source: City of Yellowknife website, September 3

If we’re going down to evacuation alert, that means we must remain ready to leave at short notice. What’s the plan if we need a SECOND evacuation?
Answer: The city says it is “very unlikely at this time that a second mass evacuation would be required.” Source: City of Yellowknife website, September 3. (The likelihood of there being a plan for a rapid-turnaround second evacuation that is any further evolved or accessible than the plan for the first one seems low.)

Will there be garbage amnesty days?
Answer: “The solid waste facility will be open Thursday, September 7 to Sunday, September 10, from 11am to 4pm. During this period, there will be a $0 tipping fee. The SWF will be closed Monday, September 11. As of September 12, the SWF will open for regular hours and regular fees will apply. Large items, construction waste and other waste will not be accepted. The city is working on a new date for the fall amnesty day, where these items can be disposed of.” Source: City of Yellowknife, September 5

When do facilities reopen?
Answer: The library, visitor information centre, fieldhouse, multiplex, community arena and City Hall will be open for regular hours starting Tuesday, September 12. The city’s transit system and YATS are scheduled to offer regular service – minus express routes – on Monday, September 11. The pool needs to go undergo annual maintenance and will be closed for now, and is slated to open October 2. Recreation programming is under way and more information about programs and registration dates will be provided in the upcoming weeks. Refunds will be issued for people who enrolled in programs before the evacuation order. Source: City of Yellowknife, September 7


If you have medical travel booked in Alberta soon, do you just stay in Alberta? Or come back, then get flown back down? What’s the plan?
Answer: The NWT health authority’s Kim Riles said: “There have been temporary amendments to the medical travel policy. I can’t give a blanket answer, every medical travel situation is pretty nuanced. We are prepared to support some degree of medical travel that has to happen within other jurisdictions, not necessarily originating in the NWT. Reach out to your employer, anyone who has employer medical travel benefits, because those might be very different. Anyone under the NWT medical travel policy should be working with our primary care providers.” Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

If your medical condition requires that you stay in Alberta (or BC) while NWT health services ramp back up, will supports be provided to stay in the south?
Answer: Health minister Julie Green said: “”For those advised not to return immediately [for a medical reason], we’re working on transition supports and will bring necessary services online as soon as possible.” Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

How are Yellowknife’s vulnerable people being tracked and helped back to the city via airlift or other means?
Answer: “There are some challenges,” said the GNWT’s Robert Tordiff on September 2. “Not all have phones, some have left hotels and integrated into the host communities … We have people on the ground in Calgary right now working with [the City of Calgary]. They’ve been monitoring and tracking NWT evacuees that have been accessing their services. We are prepared to help [people] to get registered, take them to airports and if they wish, we can return them to the Northwest Territories.” Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

What shelters and social services will be available from September 6 in Yellowknife?
Answer: The NWT health authority’s Kim Riles said: “Shelter services were identified as one of our priorities for early re-establishment, just because we think it’s really important to make sure that those core services that people depend on are available if, in fact, anybody returns in that first wave. As of Wednesday, on the day of re-entry, we’ll be planning to have dinner available in one of our shelter sites as well as overnight sheltering through the weekend. We’re going to have meals and washroom facility access established as a minimum, as well as overnight sheltering available to folks who might need it.” Source: GNWT press conference, September 2




When will school restart?
Answer: September 14. Source: School districts press release

Other concerns

What’s happening to the Ingraham Trail evacuation order, which is outside the jurisdiction of the city and First Nation?
Answer: The GNWT is opening up the Ingraham Trail for people to return at the same time as Yellowknife. Source: GNWT press conference, September 2

Links to other Q&A-type guides

The basic guide to the return, published by the city and YKDFN on Friday, is here.

The NWT’s health authority has a guide to the health services you can expect when you return – and services that won’t be ready.

Watch the GNWT Public Safety latest updates page for new information from the GNWT.

The CBC has produced a Q&A here.

The City of Yellowknife has a Q&A too.