Yellowknife as a municipality could soon look different as city councillors formally approved a plan – crafted with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation – to lobby the territorial government for a boundary change.
The city’s mayor and council voted in support of a boundary adjustment at a meeting on Monday evening. The new boundary would see areas including Ndilo and Joliffe Island move outside the municipality to fall under the First Nation’s control.
In turn, the city’s boundary would enlarge Yellowknife to the south and southwest, adding a land parcel close to the same size as the city’s present built-up area.
The Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) had earlier passed a band council resolution supporting the boundary change. Monday’s council approval means a formal application to the territorial government can now be made.
A city map depicting the proposed boundary change, with the current city boundary in dotted red and the new boundary as an orange dotted line.
Councillors jumped at the chance to second the motion on Monday. The resolution passed unanimously.
Councillor Niels Konge described the change as exciting but said Yellowknife remained far from solving its related land problems.
City officials must apply to the territorial government each time they wish to develop any parcel of land within the municipality – including the new tract of land to be added – under current rules.
“We have more land within our boundary now, but we still have to go to the GNWT with our community plan and ask them to please transfer some land to the city so that we can have some growth,” said Konge.
Councillor Robin Williams expressed his pleasure at having a “partner, alongside of us, to do some of that lobbying.”
While both City staff and Yellowknives Dene say their communities will benefit from the shift, there remain areas still to be worked out – including how the boundary shift will affect houseboats, many of which are moored close to Joliffe Island. Chief Edward Sangris also said traffic in Yellowknife Bay, such as boaters, houseboats, and aircraft, needs to be managed.
The boundary adjustment is happening within the context of the broader Akaitcho land claims process, which negotiator Fred Sangris says could be brought to a vote for Akaitcho members within a year. The First Nations believes the finalizing of this agreement will unlock around 1,000 hectares of land within the municipality for the First Nation to develop.
With the resolution passed, administrators can now apply to the territorial government for a boundary revision.
The Department of Municipal and Community Affairs will then consult with remaining Indigenous groups before making a recommendation to the minister responsible.
Francophone Games bid a go
Also on Monday, councillors voted in unanimous support of assisting the the Fédération franco-ténoise with in-kind support as the society applies to host the 2023 Francophone Games.
The event features competitions in a diverse range of disciplines including media, public speaking, and improv arts. The Games happen every three years and are expected to draw around 1,000 people to the community, injecting an estimated $400,000 into the local economy according to a briefing note provided to council.
The Fédération’s budget for the games is $1.25 million, of which the federal and territorial governments are expected to contribute $540,000 and $375,000 respectively.
The City of Yellowknife has agreed to donate facility space for the Games worth just over $50,000. The bid is due to be submitted by September 30, with the successful host city named in January 2020.
No traffic light on 44 Street
Councillor Steve Payne expressed dismay at the decision of council not to install a traffic light at 44 Street and Franklin Avenue.
“I know that this is a losing battle for me, so I just want to get my two cents in,” Payne said on Monday as council voted to adopt the results of a traffic study – which recommended pedestrian upgrades instead of a traffic light at the intersection, on the hill down to Old Town near St Patrick’s School.
“I do think its a safety issue, working in that area and with the amount of students that are in that area,” said Payne.
“I’m still a little bit disappointed that this is not considered as important as what I think it is.”
The study, by Creative Transportation Solutions, recommends upgrading the crosswalk at that intersection – work estimated to cost $40,000.
The recommended upgrades include pedestrian crossing lights on the north and south side of the intersection, relocating the bus stop currently at Franklin Avenue and 44 Street, and reducing the speed from 45 to 30 km per hour.