Fifty years since traffic lights arrived in Yellowknife

A News of the North clipping shows the installation of the first Yellowknife traffic lights
A News of the North clipping, shared to Facebook by Robin Weber, shows the installation of the first Yellowknife traffic lights.

And you thought just because Hockey Day was over, the fun would stop. Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of Yellowknife’s first-ever traffic light.

A newspaper cutting shared to Facebook by resident Robin Weber late last year describes the installation of the first light at the city’s “main intersection” (which the report does not identify).

The February 12, 1970 edition of News of the North, then edited by the late Sig Sigvaldason, states: “Canada’s most northern traffic lights were switched on early Monday morning [February 9] in a city where 20 percent of the residents have never seen them before.”

Even now, only 40 percent appear to understand their correct use.



The News of the North’s report, which does not carry a byline, states the intersection was briefly “the scene of confusion.” The traffic lights were turned on before the existing stop signs had been removed.

Not that the lights were universally welcomed.

In February 2018, at a storytelling night in the city’s Wildcat Café, longtime Yellowknife resident Merlyn Williams recalled one acquaintance attempting to shoot down the lights not long after their installation. (Watch from 3:25.)

Williams, ascribing the action to a resident named Paul Conroy, said Conroy requested a 12-gauge shotgun from friend John Larkin before declaring: “I’m going to blow those bloody traffic lights out with it.”



Williams added: “So he goes up to the traffic lights. Ka-boom!”

However, the resistance appears to have been shortlived. A second set of lights at a neighbouring intersection entered service a week after the first.

The News of the North provided instructions for readers who may have been unsure how to use the lights.

“It’s OK to turn on a red light, if clear,” the newspaper instructs.