A welcome sign erected late last year by the Northwest Territory Metis Nation is being called a safety hazard.
In a Jan. 29 news release, K’atlodeeche First Nation (KFN) outlined its concerns about the sign, erected in November at the junction of Highway 2 and Highway 5.
When the sign was first erected, KFN objected that it welcomed motorists to the ‘traditional territory’ of the Metis Nation. The First Nation considers the area solely its traditional territory.
In its latest news release, KFN said it made a formal inquiry to the Department of Infrastructure about the sign in late November and was informed before Christmas that it violated the guidelines for installing commercial or non-commercial signs within a public highway right-of-way.
“Furthermore, the sign does not conform with the design originally submitted by the NWTMN and approved by the department,” stated the release. “The posts are metal beams rather than wood, do not have the proper breakaway system, and the sign is misaligned. These factors create a safety hazard for the public.”
KFN noted it recently received word that the department has granted the Metis Nation an extension to address the violations in the spring/summer of 2019, rather than immediately, on the grounds that the remedial actions require better weather.
However, the First Nation claimed the sign was installed in late November when the ground was already frozen and during winter weather.
“KFN is concerned that the Department of Infrastructure is not fulfilling its obligation to enforce its own safety guidelines regarding public highway sign installation and questions why this delay is occurring,” the KFN release stated. “In the meantime, the public needs to know that the sign has been determined to pose a safety risk, but this risk is not being addressed.”
Garry Bailey, president of the Northwest Territory Metis Nation, said he is not happy about the latest KFN objection to the sign.
“They’re never going to give up, I guess,” he said.
Bailey said the Metis Nation has been made aware of the sign’s deficiency.
“We’ve been in contact with the department, and we’ve applied for an extension so that we can fix it by June 30 and it’s been approved,” he said, adding that nothing can be done now with frozen ground. “I know K’atlodeeche has said the ground was frozen when we put it in. It was only the second day of snow. The ground was not frozen. Any kind of bushman would know that the ground is not frozen on the second day of snow.”
Bailey said the Metis Nation has committed to fix the sign.
The Metis Nation is not trying to fight with anybody, but rather to coexist with everybody, he added. “It’s important for them to realize that and fight the right people, which is Canada, so we can all have our place that we can call home and benefit from the land that we’ve always lived on and shared, like our ancestors have done.”
The Department of Infrastructure was contacted last week about the sign, but a spokesperson said it would not respond to media inquiries until this week.