A painted sign welcomes people to Behchokǫ̀. Emily Blake/Cabin Radio
A public meeting held in Behchokǫ̀ has raised the possibility of Rae and Edzo becoming separate communities to bring in more territorial funding.
Behchokǫ̀ was known as Rae-Edzo until 2005. Rae is larger, set beside Marian Lake about a 10-minute drive from Highway 3, whereas Edzo is next to the highway.
They are governed as one community, but dividing them into two has been proposed before. In 2008, a similar plan was described as a last resort after efforts to lobby for more territorial funding failed.
“I know it’s been looked into in the past, and that’s something there’s interest in,” Chief Clifford Daniels said by phone on Tuesday.
At Sunday’s meeting, Chief Daniels said, leaders “were sharing with the public that it would be beneficial for Rae and Edzo to both be independent.”
He said the meeting had included discussion of issues like Rae and Edzo being funded as one community despite maintaining separate fire halls and dealing with different sets of ground infrastructure.
Even so, Daniels said a separation isn’t likely any time soon.
Officially creating another community, he said, would involve “lots of discussions” with the Canadian government.
“We’re not there yet. It’s just that we are looking,” he said.
Behchokǫ̀ has a population of just over 2,000 including Rae, Edzo, and a handful of homes at Frank Channel, east of Edzo.
Edzo was constructed in 1965 to address poor drainage issues in Rae, However, in its description of the community, the Tłı̨chǫ Government says many residents decided not to leave because of Rae’s hunting, fishing and trapping opportunities.
Daniels said more work will now take place to examine past discussions about separation, understand the pros and cons, and see how such a move would affect how community money is spent.
As an example, he asked: “Having separate budgets, will that make a difference?”
Sunday’s public meeting covered a wide range of subjects, including feedback on Behchokǫ̀’s use of alcohol prohibitions, concern about loose dogs in the community and the prospect of building a new subdivision.
The summer’s wildfires and evacuation were also discussed, including the huge impact on families whose homes and cabins were lost.