Yellowknifer editorial: hypocrisy trail

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The issue: Ranney Hill quarry
We say: Reaction a bit rich

The Ranney Hill Trail or Martin Lake Trail, whatever you prefer to call it, is a hiker’s paradise at the edge of city limits. 

It’s a relatively easy stroll to Ranney Hill. Gumboots are advisable in spring when snow melt floods the trail head and the tamarack swamps past David Lake. But a 20-minute walk will take you past the West Bay Fault to the summit where visitors can gaze over a panorama of pink granite and the distant city skyline to the south. 

Another 20 minutes, if you don’t get lost in the maze of spruce trees and erratically placed red flagging tape, will find you on the shore of Martin Lake where hopeful anglers come to catch pickerel when the ice comes off in May.

The trail has been enjoyed by Yellowknifers for almost as long as the community has existed. For the past couple of years, the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, along with TerraX Minerals, which is hunting for gold a few kilometres to the North, and several other businesses and organizations, have invested a lot of time and money to improve the trail, layering mucky portions of tract with gravel, putting up signage and widening the parking lot.

Now, trail lovers are in shock. City council has seemingly fast-tracked a request by Yellowknives Dene-owned Det’on Cho Construction to transfer land from the territorial government so it can open a rock quarry only a half-kilometre from Ranney Hill. 

Few members of the public knew what was at stake until just a couple weeks ago when the proposal was passed by council unanimously on first and second reading. The stage has now been set for an industrial site, with blasting, haul trucks and excavators gouging a hole in the lovely pink granite only a stone’s throw from the trail. 

In a perfect world the trail would not be defiled by any such development and intrusion. But it’s not a perfect world, as the Yellowknives Dene chiefs reminded residents during Monday night’s council meeting where council approved the land transfer on third reading.

“When people express their concerns about interrupting views from places they enjoy, I can (empathize),” Ndilo chief Ernest Betsina told council. 

“In fact, for generations the Yellowknives Dene have enjoyed views from all over the now City of Yellowknife. Most people in this room live and work on a parcel of land that began to be transformed less than 100 years ago. For us, however, this transformation was more significant than interrupted vistas. It changed our way of life.”

The irony appears to be largely lost on the mainly non-indigenous residents protesting the quarry. 

Prospectors, miners, merchants and various others from down south poured into the region beginning in the 1930s. They blasted holes all over the place, despoiled the land and water, drove away game, destroyed fishing grounds, and just took over the area in general, for their own benefit.

No one asked the Dene if they approved, nor were they offered anything in return.

And now, after nearly 100 years of encroachment, the Yellowknives are finally gaining some measure of control but face resistance over a project that would provide jobs and benefits for their people. Moreover, the quarry would supply non-acidic rock toward the remediation of nearby Giant Mine – the most consequential and damaging of all mining activity in the Yellowknife area in the eyes of the Yellowknives Dene. 

It’s the height of hypocrisy to tell them where they can put holes in the ground. Presumably, Det’on Cho has researched the best location for its quarry or else they wouldn’t be putting it there. 

Council made the right call approving the transfer. If residents feel strongly about the quarry, if they have ideas about an alternate site – one that addresses not just the aesthetics but the economics and logistics of the proposal – they should make their case to the Yellowknives Dene directly.

It would be a lot more than what was afforded them when Yellowknifers carved up their land and got rich from it.

 

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