The City of Yellowknife enthusiastically embraced a report proposing the creation of a new polytechnic university based in the community.
Residents of Fort Smith are fighting the conclusions of the independent report, commissioned by the territorial government, which calls for Aurora College – currently headquartered in the South Slave town – to be replaced by a Yellowknife-based university by 2024.
While education minister Caroline Cochrane holds public meetings in both Fort Smith and Inuvik – the site of another Aurora College campus – to reassure residents, the City of Yellowknife entered the debate with a news release urging the territorial government to go ahead.
"The City of Yellowknife strongly supports welcoming a university presence in our community. A university presence in Yellowknife will yield economic benefits, as well as positive academic and social impacts, for Yellowknife and for residents across the NWT," the statement read.
The City sought to position the university as a unifying force for the three communities involved, despite discontent in Fort Smith, where residents feel the report unfairly dismissed the efforts of staff and minimized the impact of interference from territorial officials.
"The City has reviewed the Aurora College Foundational Review and endorses the recommendations contained within the report," the statement continued.
"The City looks forward to working with the Government of the Northwest Territories, and community and Indigenous governments across the territory, to develop a strong post-secondary presence that not only benefits Yellowknife, but also sustains post-secondary excellence in other NWT communities."
Mayor Mark Heyck, quoted in the statement, said: "Establishing a university for the NWT, headquartered in Yellowknife with centres of excellence in Fort Smith and Inuvik, is an incredibly empowering possibility.
"This is an opportunity to grow our academic capacity, attract students from across the country, and develop a skilled workforce that can take full advantage of the diverse opportunities in the North."
The City will push ahead with its own feasibility study regarding a university, the creation of which has long been promoted by city councillors like Julian Morse. An advisory committee will also be established.
"The benefits and spin-offs associated with developing Yellowknife into a world-renowned knowledge centre are considerable," the statement concluded, "including the ability to attract students, academics and researchers from the rest of Canada, as well as internationally."
The territorial government will deliver its official response to the report this fall.