The City of Yellowknife will likely be joining the Yellowknives Dene First Nation in a proposal to change the municipal boundaries as a part of the Akaitcho land claim process.
“I think it needs to be said this is a historic moment for reconciliation with our indigenous partners in YKDFN,” said Coun. Julian Morse.
A memorandum came before council on July 15 to adopt a proposed change to community boundaries that would see Jolliffe Island, Ndilo and waters east and north of Yellowknife go to the YKDFN.
In turn, the city’s boundaries would be pushed back to include new land to the south and west of Yellowknife to allow for expansion over the next 50 years.
The new boundaries were established over 18 months of talks between the YKDFN and the city.
The memorandum was supported by the mayor and all councillors present at Monday’s meeting.
Chief Ernest Betsina of Ndilo and Chief Edward Sangris of Dettah were present at the council meeting, showing their support for the historic occasion.
“This has been a long time coming and previous councils have tried to deal with it,” said Betsina. “We’re getting closer and closer. There are still a few more hurdles we have to cross, but we’re being optimistic we’ll get there soon.”
Betsina says that the new boundary, if adopted, would allow for easier administration and access to funding for the people in his community.
“Our First Nation is kind of a side right now, but we want to officially be YKDFN together in the same boundary,” said Betsina.
“A lot of times we seem to get short changed. Ndilo is asking for X amount of dollars or administration dollars and programs and services dollars and my community is asking Dettah, then Dettah asking the federal government and territorial government.”
“I’m hoping the process will be a lot easier now where the monies would automatically go to Dettah and they will send the money to Ndilo so we can service our members better.”
If the new boundary is approved by both city council and the territorial government, Jolliffe Island and Yellowknife Bay – where the city’s community of houseboats is located – would fall under the jurisdiction of the YKDFN.
Coun. Morse expressed his interest in preserving the houseboat community.
“The houseboats, Old Town, that part of Yellowknife, to me, is the heart of Yellowknife,” said Morse.
“I grew up there. It’s been part of who I am my entire life so I know there are some people in that community that are concerned about what is happening here and I think that this is an opportunity for us to come together and talk and work together and develop new relationships.”
Morse said he supports the boundary change but hopes it’s done in a way that preserves one of the city’s most iconic features.
Chief Edward Sangris said the YKDFN is also thinking about the houseboaters.
“Those concerns (the houseboaters) are in our thoughts too,” said Sangris. “Which jurisdiction they’re going to go under is our concern … We need to have discussions on that and of course the federal government and territorial government have a role to play and we all need to have the discussion on it before going forward from there.”
The memorandum will come before council on July 22 for a vote before both the YKDFN and the city can come together and jointly approach the territorial government about the boundary change.
City administration will also be penning a draft of an updated mutual agreement between the two governments which will be the guiding document should there ever be a dispute.
“We’ll use that when discussing what happens with Jolliffe Island, what happens with Yellowknife Bay,” said Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the city’s senior administrative officer.
According to Bassi-Kellet, the city will work to have that draft done by the end of the month.