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Yellowknifer: 2016 - The Year in Review


Stanton Hospital could become commercial space

The territorial government signed a contract that could make space available for rent at the old Stanton Territorial Hospital.

NNSL photo/graphic

The contract was signed with Ventura Stanton Inc. to use the existing Stanton Territorial Hospital as commercial space that could be up for rent once the new hospital is built, according to documents released the week of January 4.

Assistant deputy minister for the Department of Public Works Mike Burns said the GNWT signed a contract with Ventura Stanton Inc. in September. However, he said a decision had not been made about whether the GNWT would use its right to sublease part of the building from Ventura.

The GNWT posted the 2,000-page contract online which outlined the terms of the plan to design, build and maintain a new Stanton Territorial Hospital via public-private partnership with Boreal Health Partnership.

Two Dominion Diamond board members resign

Two Dominion board members, Fiona Perrott-Humphrey and Ollie Oliveira, resigned from the company for personal reasons, according to a news release issued on Christmas Eve 2015.

The resignation came after a group of investors led by Toronto-based hedge fund K2 and Associates Investments Management Inc. filed a document with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that stated the company's "misguided policies and missed opportunities" were the reason for its declining share price.

With the company's poor economic performance over the past year, the group said it wanted to take a more active role in managing the company and added a strategic review would begin immediately.

Dominion Diamond chairman says goodbye

The Dominion Diamond chairman announced he was stepping down for health reasons, according to a news release dated Feb. 13.

Robert Gannicott said he was handing over chairmanship to Jim Gowans for "medical reasons."

The announcement came after two other board members resigned in December, citing "personal reasons" after shareholders publicly asked company directors to deal with falling share prices.

In a news release, Gannicott said both himself and the company were facing challenges.

Gannicott died in August after an extended battle with leukemia.

Yk prepares for Syrian family

The group of residents sponsoring Syrian refugees announced a family of six was set to arrive as soon as they received clearance from Ottawa in late January.

Bob Horton and five other residents decided to sponsor one family after a Syrian refugee fundraiser dinner at Sir John Franklin High School in December.

The Alhajy family, a mother and father and three boys and a girl were in Beirut, Lebanon at the time, as they waited for the federal government to give them clearance to come to Canada. They arrived in October.

Horton's group included James and Sheila Anderson, Nazim Awan, Aggie Brockman and Lindsay Armer.

Legislative assembly beefs up security

The territorial government announced it was spending $60,000 to upgrade security measures at the legislative assembly.

This came after the October 2014 Parliament Hill shooting which resulted in the death of a soldier. The changes were discussed during an in-camera meeting held at the legislative assembly on Jan. 13.

In an e-mail, assembly clerk Tim Mercer told Yellowknifer the changes were to include locking mechanisms on the doors leading to the non-public areas of the building. He said the meeting also included details about the system's programming and operational changes that would be made throughout the building.

Mercer added the money for the changes was being diverted from another project - a water's edge park beside the assembly building.

In an e-mail to Yellowknifer, RCMP Const. Jack Keefe said police investigated two complaints of threats to the legislature both in 2011 and 2012.

Canada Games costs balloon

In late January, a report found that hosting the 2023 Canada Winter Games would cost more than $76 million, including the construction of athlete housing.

Committee member Leanne Tait said the city could manage the costs during a public breakfast meeting at the Explorer Hotel on Jan. 28.

"The question now becomes should we do it?" she said.

The estimated cost of the Games grew from $35.8 million in 2014 to $50.3 million in the report. The price tag grew to about $76.8 million if the GNWT contribution for an athletes village was included.

The current price tag didn't include the cost of renovating or building a new pool which is required for the Games - but a new pool was an expense the city had already planned to undertake.

The city ultimately decided to pass on hosting the 2023 Canada Winter Games.


NWT leads in employment rate

Statistics Canada released a report in early February that stated the NWT is leading in the national employment rate, however, many of the new jobs were part-time.

The report showed that from January 2015 to January 2016, the number of people employed part-time grew from 2,200 to 3,300. The number of full-time jobs decreased to 18,800 from 19,300 over the same period.

Overall, the number of people employed grew by 500 in 2015. The report noted the territory had the highest employment rate in the country at 68.8 per cent, followed by Yukon and Alberta.

The national employment rate was reported at 60 per cent.

Federal grant partially restored

The federal government announced that it would restore some of the millions in formula funding to the territory that had been taken away in 2015.

The GNWT lost about $34 million from the annual federal grant after Ottawa changed how it calculated the territory's funding share.

On Feb. 16, federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced $24.1 million was being restored for the 2016 and 2017 fiscal year.

Morneau also said he would introduce legislative amendments to improve the stability and predictability of the payments and address the impact of the Statistics Canada data revision.

First Air welcomes new plane

First Air unveiled the first of six new aircraft introduced in 2016 as part of its $110-million fleet replacement on Feb. 9.

The new ATR 42-500s were scheduled to replace First Air's 300-series aircraft and were the first to be used in Canada.

The ATR 42-500 is considered to be faster, more fuel efficient and more comfortable for passengers.

The aircraft can carry 1,000 kilograms more weight, according to First Air.

Winter games rejected

The city said no to hosting the Canada Winter Games, citing cost uncertainty and a lack of public support, on Feb. 23.

"It would be amazing to host the Games but we have so many uncertainties," said Coun. Linda Bussey. "There is a risk of impacting an already existing tourism industry by competing for hotel space during a peak period. I want to share a comment a Canada Winter Games committee member in Whitehorse shared with me, 'The glow of the Canada Winter Games disappears after the event but the costs remain.'"

In January, a poll was released revealing that 211 out of the 335 people who responded stated they didn't think the city should host the Games. President and CEO of the Canada Games Council Sue Hylland called the decision a lost opportunity. But said if the city was not ready to host the games, then council did the right thing by rejecting the bid, she added.

Former RCMP officer found not guilty

On Feb. 25, former RCMP officer Colin Allooloo was found not guilty of sexually assaulting a six-year-old girl.

Throughout the trial, Allooloo declared his innocence and was acquitted for both sexual assault and touching a minor for sexual purposes.

Allooloo had been charged with sexual assault and sexual interference and accused of a assaulting a young girl while he was babysitting her in Inuvik over five years ago.

Bobby Zoe found guilty in home invasion

Bobby Zoe was found guilty on Feb. 24 of a downtown home invasion and sexual assault that happened about a year prior.

The court heard during Zoe's trial, which began in November 2015 and resumed in February, that Zoe had sneaked into an apartment bedroom and began touching a female victim as she slept in her bed with her partner asleep beside her.

The man awoke to her screams and chased Zoe out of the apartment and into a stairwell where the two men struggled before the intruder escaped with some cash taken from the apartment.

The 2015 crime led to an RCMP review of its communications policies after it was revealed police had responded to a similar incident two weeks before but did not alert the public until after the second home invasion.

Zoe was charged in both cases although charges were later stayed in the first incident.


Report shows size of tailings spill

A report on a Jan. 26 tailings spill at the Ekati diamond mine showed between 500,000 to three million litres of kimberlite tailings leaked from a broken pipe.

The waste material produced from diamond mining froze in place and a GNWT inspector said the spill did not present an environmental threat.

The area was set to be inspected again after the ice and snow melted.

Dominion Diamond Corporation said the company would be expected to clean up the tailings and that it routinely inspects its pipelines to make sure its operations are safe for people and the environment.

A 4.7-million litre spill took place at the mine in 2008. It also reportedly presented no environmental threat.

Police protocol on intoxication puts pressure on shelters

An RCMP policy shift to not respond to calls of intoxication unless they caused a threat to safety put more pressure on local homeless shelters, according to e-mails obtained by Yellowknifer in March.

RCMP said holding intoxicated people in custody could cause problems and increased its chance of liability were something to go wrong.

According to e-mails, the Salvation Army loosened its rules on intoxicated people, but had begun experiencing problems with clients being verbally abusive. Their behaviour, however, was not criminal.

The shelter also experienced food shortages when feeding more than 60 clients, a capacity the organization said wasn't sustainable.

Speedskater takes spotlight

Yellowknife speedskating star Cynthia Simmons took the Special Olympics Canada Winter Games by storm this year.

The athlete took home four gold medals in the top division at the competition in Corner Brook, N.L. - all within two days.

On March 2, Simmons won gold in the 500-metre and 1,500-metre events.

She emerged victorious once again on March 3, winning gold for the 777-metre and 1,000-metre events.

Simmons told Yellowknifer the 500-metre final was the best race she'd ever had in her life.

Coyote's restaurant finds new home

Coyote's Bistro owner Ed But announced in March he would be re-opening his business at a new downtown location after a fire destroyed the original restaurant on Range Lake Road on Feb. 21.

He began leasing out the second floor of the building formerly home to the White Fox Bar and Grill and Prestige nightclub, located near the Vietnamese Noodle House on Franklin Avenue.

A kitchen fire was blamed as the culprit of nearly $100,000 in damage at the restaurant's former location.

Yellowknife Inn sign retired

The iconic red Yellowknife Inn sign that hung over the hotel since 1968 was laid to rest on March 3.

The new owner, Choice Hotels Canada, replaced the original sign with that of the Quality Inn.

According to local historian Ryan Silke, Vic Ingraham named the first hotel on the Yellowknife Inn site - the Ingraham Hotel - in his own honour.

The building changed hands a few years later and was known by the 1960s as the Yellowknife Inn once the new owners expanded onto the original hotel.

Despite a number of ownership changes over the years, the current management said they would work to preserve the building's historical integrity. The Yellowknife Inn's bar and coffee shop are still remembered as an important social gathering spot for many people in the city.

Woman held in drunk tank for 12 days

A 19-year-old woman held in concrete RCMP cells for 12 days straight without visitors, phone calls, windows or a pillow was ordered to move to a women's jail in Fort Smith after a territorial court judge ruled the police detachment is not suitable for holding people long-term.

Tamara Simpson was taken into custody on Feb. 29 after pleading guilty to drug trafficking charges.

She remained in the RCMP cells until Judge Robert Gorin ordered her transfer on March 11.

Unlike men awaiting court dates who stay in custody at North Slave Correctional Centre and have access to television, visitors and the outdoors, there was no facility in the city besides RCMP cells for women in custody.

Then-executive director of the John Howard Society, Lydia Bardak, called the situation unacceptable and one that highlights an inequality faced by women who are waiting to appear in court.

Dettah death marks region's first homicide

RCMP arrested and charged 30-year-old Stanley Abel Jr. with murder on March 30 after Herman Abel was found dead at a home in Dettah early that morning.

At the time, RCMP stated they were investigating an aggravated assault that left Herman Abel "grievously injured." The man later died of his injuries in hospital.

The police shared few details about the incident. They did say they were called to a home in the community at just after 4 a.m. on March 30, and that is where they discovered the injured man.

Abel Jr. had fled from the scene and was arrested late in the day on March 30 at a Yellowknife residence.

The accused later pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter during a court appearance in December. Herman Abel was Stanley Abel Jr.'s uncle.

The case marked the region's first homicide of the year.


Bullocks changes hands

The owners of Bullocks Bistro waved goodbye to the end of an era as they passed the reins of their business on to new owners Jo-Ann Martin and Mark Elson on April 6.

Sam and Renata Bullock ran the show at the popular Old Town restaurant for nearly 24 years.

The couple first started selling fish and chips to Yellowknifers at a carnival in March 1989, cooking out of a shack on Yellowknife Bay.

Eventually they upgraded, opening Bullocks Bistro in 1992 at the location of the current CKLB radio station.

In 1999, the restaurant relocated to its current spot in Old Town, across from Weaver & Devore.

Fentanyl, cocaine uncovered in largest drug bust in decades

Eleven people were handed drug charges on April 6 after RCMP targeted a drug network operating out of the city earlier that week.

RCMP called the April 4 drug bust one of the biggest in decades. Police discovered 1,200 fentanyl pills, four kilograms of cocaine, 16 pounds of marijuana, 11 litres of liquid codeine, thousands of dollars in merchandise, 10 firearms, $75,000 in cash, two vehicles that had been seized from the highway near Fort Providence and a snowmobile. Among those charged was 20-year-old Todd Dube, who police believed to be the ring-leader of the network. A 76-year-old woman was also implicated in the incident and faces drug trafficking charges.

Owner of Jerrie's Delivery Service charged with drug trafficking

Eight more people were charged with drug-related offences on April 14 following a major drug bust in the city at the beginning of the month - including an owner of Jerrie's Delivery Service.

Norman Hache was among those implicated in a second round of arrests in the year-long Project Green Manalishi investigation.

RCMP carried out eight search warrants before making the arrests, a news release stated at the time.

Fentanyl pills, crack cocaine, cocaine, psilocybin (a psychedelic compound found in some mushrooms), marijuana, anabolic steroids, vehicles, firearms and cash were all seized.

Fitzgerald Carpeting goes up in blaze

Local flooring company Fitzgerald Carpets burned to the ground after a fire started at the building around 10 p.m. on April 24.

More than 29 fire department personnel were on scene to fight the blaze at 304 Woolgar Ave., although the building could not be salvaged.

Black smoke was seen billowing from the former carpet store and over nearby apartment buildings. There had been flammable materials inside the store.

It took fire crews 13 hours to put out the flames.

According to the City of Yellowknife, a man who spotted the fire tried unsuccessfully to call 911 before driving to the fire hall to spread the word. There is no 911 service available in the NWT.

Amazing Race Canada returns to Yellowknife

Film crews from CTV's Amazing Race Canada were spotted in the city at the end of April as they prepared the show's fourth season for air.

The television series features teams of two who compete in challenges against other groups while racing across Canada for a cash prize. Crews were seen on the McMahon Frame Lake Trail with a group of aboriginal drummers while another crew was on Frame Lake near the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre. The show also filmed inside the NWT legislative assembly on April 27, which spent several months preparing for the crew's visit.

Yellowknife was featured in a season one episode of the show back in May 2013.


Commissioner's term ends

George Tuccaro's term as commissioner of the Northwest Territories ended May 10.

The largely ceremonial role involves representing the territory at certain occasions, giving royal assent to territorial legislation and opening the legislative assembly sittings.

In the meantime, Deputy Commissioner Gerald Kisoun has filled the role since Tuccaro's term ended.

By the end of the year, the federal government had yet to name a replacement for Tuccaro.

The federal government had been reviewing the process used to select a new commissioner before naming a new person.

Old Town parking woes

About a dozen people filed into city council chambers May 9 as the municipal services committee considered parking issues in Old Town.

A plan was to add 13 angled parking stalls across Franklin Avenue from The Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery, ban parking elsewhere on that side of Franklin and install a multi-use trail.

"This is a fairly significant development," said Coun. Julian Morse, who raised the issue. Ultimately, councillors cut the parking stalls. To make up for the removed parking spots along the road, often used in the summer by those parking boat trailers, the city plans to have parking on a city lot at the corner of Franklin and School Draw Avenue. Council ultimately approved spending $265,000 for the lot as part of the 2017 city budget with the city's planning department in charge of the work.

GNWT takes greater role at NTPC

The territorial government moved to take a greater role in administration of the Northwest Territories Power Corporation by replacing its eight-member board of directors with GNWT deputy ministers.

The move was announced by Louis Sebert, minister responsible for the power corp., on May 11.

The change was expected to save $1 million per year on honourarium and travel expenses paid to the board.

The six deputy ministers were from the departments of Public Works and Services, Finance, Aboriginal Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations, Justice, Transportation, and Education, Culture and Employment. They took on the role without extra pay said Dave Nightingale, director of energy policy and planning with the Department of Public Works and Services.

The move echoed one in 2002 when the power corp. board was dismissed after disagreements between cabinet and the board on establishing a single territorial power rate system. However, the GNWT said this was a different case.

"This is not a reflection on whether the current board was following direction or anything like that," Nightingale said.

First fire of the season forces evacuations

The first forest fire in the Yellowknife area broke out May 14, forcing the evacuation of homes and cabins near Madeline Lake off the Ingraham Trail. The fire had burned about 0.08 square kilometres by the time fire crews got it under control.

While the fire about 25 kilometres east of the city threatened structures, none burned. It was declared out on May 24.

The exact cause of the fire wasn't determined, but the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said evidence indicated it was human-caused.

It was the start of a fire season in an area that also saw a fire in mid-July force the rapid evacuation of Camp Connections, a summer camp for foster children near Reid Lake, the closure of the highway for several days and the destruction of Namushka Lodge.

Bell settles 911 lawsuit

Bell Mobility Inc. agreed to a $1 million settlement with James Anderson and his son Samuel Anderson, who brought a class action lawsuit against the company for charging a monthly fee for 911 when the service wasn't available for its customers.

"It feels good to have some closure," James Anderson said in mid-May. The settlement was approved by a judge June 6.

The agreement called on Bell to pay $1,016,336.57, including interest. Part of that, no more than 40 per cent, was to cover the legal costs of the case.

The Andersons brought the case because more than 20,000 customers in the Northwest Territories, Nunavut and parts of Yukon were charged a monthly 75-cent fee on their bills for several years. That, a judge wrote in a particularly descriptive NWT Court of Appeals decision last year, was like providing a starving person a photograph of a turkey dinner and then charging him or her for a turkey dinner. Bell had lost at each stage of the process and had attempted to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada. Last summer, the Supreme Court refused to hear the case which upheld lower court rulings against Bell.

Daycare gets new digs

The Centre for Northern Families completed the purchase of a home in mid-May which will become its new daycare space.

The centre had been saving funds used as a down payment for the home at 5117 54 St. that had a list price of $614,900.

The new site is expected to allow the daycare to increase its capacity by several children over the current 20 spots. The daycare has children between 12 months and five-years old.

Bree Denning, executive director of the Yellowknife Women's Society, which governs the centre, said the organization hoped to move the daycare into the house by the summer after renovations were completed.

The move had not happened as of early December, though.

Moving the daycare from its current space on Franklin Avenue will allow the existing building to be renovated to incorporate semi-independent living units for women facing homelessness.

Work camp opposed

Opposition was voiced in early May to a proposed workers camp in the Kam Lake neighbourhood that would house tradespeople coming into town to build the new Stanton Territorial Hospital.

The camp was pitched by Clark Builders, a company part of a public-private partnership building the new facility. It was expected to house up to 250 people because there were not enough hotel rooms or apartments for the workers in the city.

Residents in the Hall Crescent area near where the camp was planned came out against the plan with concerns about noise and the aesthetics of having a work camp adjacent to their new subdivision.

Council opposed the plan May 24. Clark Builders later returned saying there were three other areas it could be built in the Kam Lake area. A scaled down version behind the Fieldhouse for 150 workers was green-lit, but the camp was never built.

The builders later said the company had found adequate accommodations in the city.


Brewing an award winner

The Woodyard Brewhouse & Eatery has an award-winning brew on tap.

The brewpub's Kick Sled Cream Ale picked up a bronze at the 14th-annual Canadian Brewing Awards in Vancouver at the end of May.

"We're extremely happy with the outcome. I'm already planning on what I'm going to do next year for entries," said Fletcher Stevens, who co-owns the brewpub with his wife Miranda Stevens, in an interview about the win.

In March, three months after his brewpub started pouring its own beer this past News Year's Eve, he sent five samples in for judging on behalf of his pub.

Breweries and cideries of all sizes from across the country took part in the competition with more than 50 categories, including big-name brands.

A panel judged the beer based on five criteria, according to the competition's website: aroma, appearance, flavour, mouth-feel and overall impression.

Family Centre told to leave

Parents were upset the Yellowknife Family Centre was told in a letter May 31 to leave its space above the SideDoor Resource Centre on 50 Street.

SideDoor planned to expand its services, so it gave notice to the centre to vacate the second-floor space used for 11 years by families with children from birth to age five as a place to socialize, play and access a toy lending library.

"It was a total surprise," said Claudia Parker, superintendent of Yellowknife Catholic Schools.

The school district administers the program.

The district held meetings through the summer and agreed to host the family centre in school space this year with a goal of a parent-led group running it in the future.

Jail to hold females

The Department of Justice began holding females at the North Slave Correctional Centre, a shift that followed a judge ruling that the practice of housing a female for days in RCMP cells was a violation of equality rights.

The women who can be held at NSCC are those awaiting a court appearance who have yet to have a bail hearing.

Up until this point, women awaited their court appearances in RCMP cells because there were no other options for women in Yellowknife. The territory's only correctional facility for women is in Fort Smith.

Justice Minister Louis Sebert said the Justice Department did not want females lodged in RCMP cells and neither did the Mounties. He added he feels there is enough space between the two territorial facilities in Yellowknife to keep female prisoners out of RCMP cells.

Racquet Club expands

The Yellowknife Racquet Club unveiled plans to add 7,500 square feet to its building in Old Town.

The work, which began this year, is expected to take a year but not disrupt operations.

Kelli Hinchey, owner and general manager of the club, said the 15,000-square-foot building constructed 35 years ago no longer has enough space. With 1,800 members and growing demand on the fitness side of the business, she said it was time to either sell or expand.

"We're literally bursting at the seems," she said.

The construction work, to be carried out by Konge Construction Ltd., will add another fitness studio, more space for the weight room, a children's play area, new changing rooms, an expanded spin studio and an expanded front entry.

The expansion will maintain the existing four racquet courts.

There are two other private gyms in the city.

Allain St-Cyr gym construction announced

Education, Culture and Employment Minister Alfred Moses appeared to catch the francophone school district by surprise when he announced construction of a gym for Ecole Allain St-Cyr.

"We are hoping to break ground on a new gymnasium in the summer of 2017," Moses said in the legislative assembly June 15. He said the gym was expected to be ready for students by September 2018.

"We have heard absolutely nothing on that front," said Yvonne Careen, superintendent of Commission scolaire francophone des Territories du Nord-Ouest.

The GNWT was ordered to build the gym as part of a court order resulting from court action by the district to get more equitable school facilities.

Later in the year, the district sought to have the GNWT increase the size of the facility to allow it to host competitive sports that require a larger gym.

It asked the city to contribute $500,000 but the ask wasn't considered during budget deliberations in December.

Thousands attend Festival on Franklin

About 5,000 Yellowknifers took to Franklin Street on June 21 for the first-ever Festival on Franklin, according to founder Wayne Guy who called the solstice celebration a success.

Shops were open late, music was playing, people were lined up at food trucks and children played along Franklin Avenue, which was closed for the event.

"It was a great turnout. It was just swarmed with people," he said. "All the venues that opened up did very well. It couldn't have been better ... I think that people felt that the downtown was a place to hang out and that's what we wanted. It was nice to see people come out in the numbers they did."

The festival was an effort to change a negative perception of the city centre. Some compared it to a similar event, Raven Mad Daze, which petered out in 2010 because of a lack of public interest.

"Bringing back a downtown summer festival is a great step in trying to bring back the Yellowknife of old," said Coun. Steve Payne. "By reviving a festival, it gives us hope that the downtown core can be brought back to its former glory."

Fire breaks out at Ekati

A fire at the Ekati Diamond Mine process plant June 23 led to temporary layoffs for 330 people and cost Dominion Diamond Corporation about $20 million.

No one was injured. The fire started during what the company called a "planned outage" at Ekati. The mine had a workforce of 1,413 in January 2015, is located about 300 km northeast of Yellowknife and is accessed by air in the summer.

The plant can handle 4.3 million tonnes of ore from the mine per year, according to Dominion Diamond's website. It processes the ore through crushing, screening and scrubbing to separate waste material from the diamonds.

Repairs over three months cost $5 million less than originally expected, Dominion stated. Operations resumed in September and employees were rehired.

"We are very pleased the process plant repairs have been substantially completed ahead of schedule and below our original cost estimate," Dominion CEO Brendan Bell stated in a news release.


Ekati mine lays off workers

Following a fire at the process plant at the Ekati Diamond Mine in late June, Dominion Diamond announced on July 6 that around 330 employees would be out of work.

CEO Brendan Bell told Yellowknifer in an e-mail that Dominion intended to redeploy employees to other parts of the plant where possible, but permanent, part-time and contract employees were still temporarily laid off.

The lay offs were cost-cutting measures while the mine limited production and to cover the repair costs, estimated in July to be around $25 million. Dominion began a progressive rehiring on Sept. 6, with the processing plant coming back online by the end of September.

Wildfire destroys Namushka Lodge

No one was hurt, but Namushka Lodge was destroyed by a wildfire on July 15.

The lodge, located on Harding Lake about 50 kilometres east of Yellowknife, burned for about 24 hours after the first started near kilometre 56 on the Ingraham Trail.

The Chorostkowski family, who owned the lodge, took to Facebook to bemoan the loss of the place they'd owned for 34 years, as well as question why there was no warning from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

"It's hard to even think that it is actually gone even though I have walked through its ashes," the post stated. "My mom said it best when she said it's like losing one of your family members."

The fire reached about 64 square kilometres in size, and was still considered out of control two days later, forcing the evacuation of Reid Lake Territorial Park and Camp Connections on July 18, and claimed a cabin north of the lodge on Pickerel Lake.

Snap Lake mine put up for sale

De Beers Canada announced it was putting Snap Lake Diamond Mine on the market less than a year after production halted and staff was laid off.

De Beers planned to flood the underground tunnels later in the year if the property didn't sell. In December, the company announced it had found no buyers and would begin the process of flooding the mine this month.

"We thought the right thing to do would be to check the market to see if anyone is interested before it becomes flooded," said De Beers spokesperson Tom Ormsby in July.

The mine still has an estimated 20 to 30 million carats that could be potentially recoverable over the next 12 years, said Ormsby.

The mine opened in 2008 and employed about 800 people, but was never really profitable. The mine was plagued with costly water-inflow issues from the lake above the mine tunnels.

Northern bishops say no to gay marriage

The Anglican Church of Canada narrowly voted in favour of allowing the solemnization of same-sex marriages at the General Synod, but Northern bishops were having none of it.

Seven bishops from Northern Canada, including Yellowknife-based Rt. Rev. David Parsons, Bishop of the Arctic, released a letter in July expressing their public dissent from the decision, and promising gay marriages won't be performed in Anglican churches across the Arctic if they have anything to say about it. Congregants at Yellowknife's Holy Trinity church were reluctant to comment, however many parishioners were quick to point out the issue wasn't actually about discrimination.

"It's not homophobia at all. We welcome anybody who sins, that's what the purpose of the church is, is to love a sinner, it's got nothing to do with what your sin actually is," one member who preferred not to be named told Yellowknifer.

In contrast, a 2015 poll by Forum Research found 70 per cent of Canadians approve of same sex marriage.

The Marriage Canon won't be officially changed until it is approved at the 2019 General Synod.

Law library falls

The Department of Justice brought the hammer down on the M.M. De Weerdt Law Library, citing cost and lack of attendance as reasons to close the facility.

"The use of the library resources has been consistently dwindling over the years while at the same time, the costs of publications have been rapidly increasing," stated Justice Minister Louis Sebert in an e-mail to Yellowknifer.

"It doesn't make sense to continue to support a resource that is barely used, when we can better use the money in other areas."

The amount budgeted for library operations in 2015-16 was $223,000, but expenditures actually hit closer to $467,000.

Assistant deputy justice minister Mark Aitken said there were only six individual visits by members of the public in the last fiscal year.

In August, a month after the closure was announced, Aitken announced the library would be replaced with a resource centre aimed at public use, that will be cheaper to maintain because it won't be staffed with a trained law librarian, but rather with an outreach court worker.

Something fishy this way comes at the Wildcat Cafe

Customers at the Wildcat Cafe were left with a bad taste in their mouth on July 22 when it was revealed the Great Slave Lake pickerel on offer for $34 a plate was actually zander from Kazakhstan.

"I didn't know about it, honestly," said operator Sato Chankasingh.

He said he believed he was getting Great Slave Lake pickerel from his supplier, Northern FoodServices, and was too busy to notice the labels on the boxes, stated, "Product of Kazakhstan."

According to Roger Walker, general manager of Northern FoodServices, Chankasingh had been using the zander, priced at $12.75 per pound, for two years.

"I don't believe for a second that he didn't know what it was," said Walker, adding Chankasingh had requested the company provide a quote for freshwater fish.

"The price was too high and so this other stuff was what was agreed on," he said.

Chankasingh leased the restaurant space from the city since 2015, with his lease running out this summer. The city stated it will issue a request for proposals to run the cafe in 2017.


Ramble and Ride draws crowd

Ramble and Ride turned 10 this year, and celebrated with the biggest turnout yet for the annual festival. Exact numbers were unavailable, but festival co-ordinator Emily Smits was confident it was the most popular year ever.

"We printed the same amount of schedules as last year because I had stacks leftover last year and we almost ran out on Saturday," she said.

"Everywhere I went, because I was all over the place, there were tons of people."

She estimated attendance was "double" from the year before.

"It was pretty awesome," she said. The three-day festival featured local artists, musicians and performers scattered around Old Town.

The return of junior kindergarten: a new hope

The territorial government announced early this month that junior kindergarten is a go for Yellowknife and other parts of the territory at the start of the next school year.

The plan was put on hold two years earlier in the face of criticism from school boards and MLAs over funding while the government did a review of its own implementation plan.

The GNWT drew sharp criticism after it was revealed the plan was to be funded by clawing back surpluses from school boards and for duplicating existing programming like Aboriginal Headstart in smaller communities.

The latest school scheme came after a year-long program review involving more than 400 people.

Olympian brings home bronze

Akeem Haynes' family wasn't able to make it to Rio de Janeiro to watch him compete in the summer Olympics, proudly watched from their home in Yellowknife as he ran the 100-metre sprint and won bronze as part of the 4x100 metre relay team.

"It was an amazing feeling just watching him do his thing," said his mother, Carlene Smith.

Haynes was born in Jamaica but lived in Yellowknife from the age of six to 12, attending Weledeh Catholic School, before relocating to Calgary in 2004.

"I'm really really proud of him because I can see it - he put everything that he got into the race," said Smith.

Upon returning to Yellowknife after the Olympics, Haynes was awarded the key to the city.

Battle of the benches continues

City council went to bat over two downtown benches that were removed in the middle of August.

City council voted the removal of the benches worked against their goal of revitalizing the area.

As Yellowknifer reported on Aug. 24, the debate raged for more than half an hour, with some councillors arguing the removal was symbolic of larger problems in the downtown core, while others said it was an issue of communication between council and city staff.

"Not all benches are created equal with respect to how much council should be consulted," said Coun. Adrian Bell.

The benches, adjacent to Sutherlands Drugs at the corner of Franklin Avenue and 50 Street were vandalized many times before they were removed, Dave Hurley, facilities manager for the city told council.

He said the bench would be clean at 7:30 a.m., but by an hour later staff would often have to clear broken bottles and human waste away from the area.

In the end, council voted to direct administration to bring back the benches, with only Mayor Mark Heyck and Coun. Steve Payne voting against.

Yellowknife turns out for The Tragically Hip

Yellowknifers joined millions of other Canadians at venues across the city on Aug. 20 to watch the live CBC broadcast of

the final concert by The Tragically Hip.

Frontman Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in May, and the final stop in the band's Man Machine Poem tour was broadcast from Kingston, Ont., the band's hometown.

Yellowknife hosted a screening of the final show at the Fieldhouse for around 100 people. As well, The Elks Club and The Raven Pub tuned in to watch the band plow through their greatest hits.

"They struck a chord across the country, and it's a very emotional, moving night to be with them here. I wanted to come out and see it with the other folks here," said Dave Speakman, who joined the crowd at the Fieldhouse.

The live broadcast flipped between The Tragically Hip's performance inside the venue and an overflowing market square, where fans congregated to watch a bigscreen of the show in downtown Kingston.

"Gord is the greatest Canadian poet," said Toni Fontana Enns, owner of The Raven Pub.

She said her bar was packed for the concert.

"He will be truly missed," Enns told Yellowknifer at the time.

Denecho King escapes

Denecho King escaped from the North Slave Correctional Centre on Aug. 10 and spent three days on the lam, finally being recaptured on Aug. 13.

Sources told Yellowknifer he was in an outdoor fenced off area adjacent to the correctional centre when he managed to climb onto the roof and disappeared.

The area, sometimes called a bullpen, is one of several outdoor areas inmates can use. It has no fencing over top of it, but it does include picnic tables, a barbecue and several hand railings.

He was recaptured after a city-wide manhunt at a residence in Sissons Court.


Wolf attack recalled

It was an intense, dramatic night a Yellowknife hunter and filmmaker will never forget.

Jay Bulckaert was hunting sheep and caribou with four other men from Hay River in the Mackenzie Mountains, about a half-hour flight from Fort Simpson, when three wolves invaded their camp. They had to shoot one of the wolves dead after it had attacked a dog that was with them.

The dog's owner, Andrew Stanley, trapper and host of TV show Fur Harvesters NWT, was the one who actually pulled the trigger. Stanley's father Ross Stanley and brother Will Stanley were among the hunting party. Bulckaert said the entire party ran for their guns and loaded them except for Stanley who ran unarmed toward the wolves to rescue his dog.

"I was able to see that one wolf had Charlie around the throat while the other one was biting his hind legs and stomach area. Andrew was able to scare them away from the attack. They ran away - I don't think they had ever seen a human being before," Bulckaert said. "They ran away about 20 feet and by that time someone had gotten Andrew a gun. The third one had run away but one of the wolves that was attacking stopped ... and that's when Andrew shot that wolf."

Bulckaert said the other two wolves stuck around for another two or three hours a few hundred feet away, howling and calling for their buddy, who wasn't coming back.

Premier shuffles cabinet

Premier Bob McLeod carried out a major cabinet shuffle on Sept. 2, changing responsibilities of most ministers ahead of plans to merge at least two departments.

The shuffle, affecting six of the seven members of cabinet, came less than 10 months into McLeod's second term at the helm of government. He downplayed the timing of the move, which is more often carried out closer to a government's midterm.

"We have a good cabinet, strong ministers and we wanted to make sure we balanced out the workload so we can accomplish all of the priorities we've set for ourselves," McLeod said.

The premier shuffled himself out of the top post at the Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment, shifting that role to Hay River South MLA Wally Schumann, who also took on Public Works and Services from Range Lake MLA Caroline Cochrane.

The changes to cabinet portfolios also took Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Robert C. McLeod away from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, a department he's headed since 2007. Cochrane took on that role while keeping responsibilities for the NWT Housing Corporation and addressing homelessness.

At the same time, the premier announced the deputy minister of Municipal and Community Affairs, Tom Williams, was being shuffled to the Housing Corp. as assistant deputy minister Eleanor Young was to serve as acting deputy minister of Municipal and Community Affairs.

Bear spray on playground sends children to hospital

Eight children at Range Lake North School ended up in the emergency room on Sept. 6 while other students were treated at the school, after bear spray was discovered to have been sprayed on playground equipment.

The school was alerted to the problem after students complained of burning eyes and skin around their noses and mouths.

"It was sprayed on the equipment, on the slides and then equipment where kids grab onto handles and seats and things like that," said Yellowknife Education District No. 1 superintendent Metro Huculak.

"At first it looked like somebody put hot sauce on it."

Staff also discovered broken windows at the school, Huculak told Yellowknifer. Staff reacted immediately to the complaints by bringing children inside and not allowing them back on the playground until the equipment had been sprayed down with pressure washers. Bear spray, a type of pepper spray, is designed to deter aggressive bears. While bear spray is legal in Canada for use against bears, it becomes a prohibited weapon when used against humans.

"This senseless mischief undermines that sense of safe play, and we want to find those who may be responsible for this act," stated RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon in a news release.

Eighteen vehicles broken into in one night

Yellowknife RCMP warned people to watch their vehicles after receiving 18 reports of vehicles being broken into in one night.

On Sept. 13, Mounties received multiple reports of vehicles that were broken into. Windows were broken and doors were damaged, and property was stolen throughout the downtown residential area.

"The damage to the vehicles has been substantial, and the items that were stolen vary in each case," stated RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon in an e-mail to Yellowknifer.

The break-ins were concentrated around Matonabee Street, Gitzel Street, 52 Street, 49 Street, 48 Street, 47 Street and Raven's Court.

Old Town fixture dies at age 59

Old Town resident Greg Loftus died in Edmonton on Sept. 12.

Long-time friend Amanda Mallon told Yellowknifer he died while waiting for a lung transplant.

"Over the years he had also taken it upon himself to take care of all of our friends, who had died before their time," she said.

"All evening I kept thinking of the raucous welcoming party he was probably having on the other side."

Loftus lived in Old Town since the early 1970s. After a double kidney transplant in 1997, he started The Paddlers for Parts Association, a nonprofit group that promotes organ and tissue donation.

"Old Town was definitely his family," said neighbour Fran Hurcomb.

"It was just where he felt comfortable."

She said she had known him since she first arrived in Yellowknife, around 40 years ago.

Gahcho Kue Mine opens

After 20 years of preparation, the Gahcho Kue Diamond Mine officially opened in late September.

Located 280 kilometres northeast of Yellowknife, the first diamonds were recovered from the brand new mine on June 30. The official grand opening was Sept. 20.

"Mine ramp-ups are tricky things, and I've done a few of them in my lifetime. This has probably been one of the best ramp-ups we've had," said De Beers CEO Kim Truter on the grand opening tour Sept. 20.

The mine started production officially on Aug. 1, and Truter said they're already "way ahead" of budget.

"(This project) lived through two economic depressions, multiple politicians, so it's wonderful to be here for 20 years," he said.

"And I think it means a lot to the local people. I can actually sense the emotion today in people - this seems to be a real big deal for the employees and local communities and politicians. It's fantastic."

Lutsel K'e Dene First Nation, Yellowknives Dene First Nation, Tlicho Government, Deninu Ku'e First Nation, North Slave Metis Alliance and the NWT Metis Nation have signed confidential impact benefit agreements with Gahcho Kue Mine.

Each group made sure representatives were on hand at the opening for a drum dance and a feeding of the fire ceremony.


Rotary Club boardwalk finally finished

Several years and about a kilometre of pressurized wood later, the boardwalk through the wetlands in Rotary Club Park on School Draw Avenue was finally complete.

Construction began in 2007 and every year the all-volunteer crew, partly composed of architects, engineers and business people had carefully chipped away at it.

Rotarian Chuck Tolley worked on the project since 2007. He said he enjoyed the cool autumn weekends while working on the project and the camaraderie it created among the volunteers.

"It was a wonderful project. I loved working on it," he said.

He worked on the project since the beginning, and says he enjoyed the camaraderie it created among the volunteers. "I'm kind of sad it ended ... well, I'm glad it's done for people's benefit. But it was great working with the volunteers and various groups involved."

Construction continued only when it didn't disrupt the wildlife and birds' nesting period and when weather permitted. This meant heaving gravel on snowmobiles in the spring and building in the early fall. The completed boardwalk continues to offer people access to the waterfront and wildlife without disturbing the area. The Rotary's boardwalk project was conducted in partnership with the City of Yellowknife - the city provided the tools and the club provided the labour.

Citizens on Patrol returns

After an eight-year hiatus, neighborhood watch group Citizens on Patrol was back from the dead.

Around mid-October, volunteer citizen patrollers once again roamed the streets helping curb break-ins, illegal dumping, vandalism and other crimes by reporting them to police.

"This is strictly hands-off surveillance and monitoring at a safe distance - absolutely no confrontation and no contact," said co-ordinator Lea Martin. "We look for people who are at risk and if we think there is a risky situation, we report it to the police."

Ten people had already signed up for the first round of training, set to happen later in the month, and Martin hoped for a few more in the second round of training in mid-December.

Yellowknife men give back

A group of men proved a little can go along way when everyone comes together.

Since forming a team in February, 100 Men Who Give a Damn Yellowknife had been raising thousands of dollars for local charities. In October, the group announced the NWT SPCA would be beneficiary to an $11,500 donation.

"Honestly, the uptake was beyond what we expected," said co-founder Garrett Hinchey.

"The community is very charitable and people are always looking for ways to help out and give back."

The Yellowknife group is one of several branches of 100 Men Who Give a Damn across the country aiming to raise at least $40,000 for local charities in a single year.

They meet every three months, committing to pool $100 per person each time toward a good cause. Over the course of their meetings, the group randomly draws three charities that are worthy of receiving their donation and then vote for their top choice.

"Within an hour we've committed at least $10,000," Hinchey said.

The donation would help the SPCA pay for a range of things, from veterinary services to food to animal care and cleaning supplies, which had all been stretched last year, as the shelter neared capacity for dogs.

In December, 100 Men Who Give a Damn tried to donate to the A New Day Healing Program which helps people deal with domestic violence. However they were told by the GNWT that government-funded programs could not receive donations.

Salmon shocker

A Yellowknife man who was fishing for ciscoes at Tartan Rapids on the Yellowknife River Oct. 18 accidentally caught something totally unexpected.

Trevor Murdoch was pulling in his net when he noticed a fish that was larger than usual among the bunch.

"I had three or four ciscoes in the net and there was a salmon," Murdoch said. "The fish actually had a cisco in its mouth."

Murdoch believes the fish is a chum salmon - a species he'd seen before in books. It weighed eight pounds and stretched 29 inches long, he said.

According to Fisheries and Oceans Canada, chum salmon are found in the Pacific Rim, including in Arctic waters. Murdoch said he believes it came all the way from the Arctic Ocean and that it looked "very sick" by the time it ended up in his net.

"In the fall they spawn, or they try and spawn," Murdoch said of the fish. "Once the salmon spawn, they die."

He called the local Department of Fisheries and Oceans as well as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to ask what to do with the fish, he said.

The Fisheries Act prohibits anyone from catching fish other than ciscoes and suckers using a dip net. Anything else must be turned back right away. Murdoch said Fisheries told him to send them the fish so it could be studied.

Headframe topples

A blast rang out across the city shortly after 5 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 29, marking the demolition of the Robertson Headframe.

Within seconds of the explosion, the nearly 25-storey tower toppled, sending plumes of smoke, water and debris out from the rubble.

Hours before, large groups of people gathered along Robertson Drive and Rasmussen Road to witness the event. While they waited, many expressed sadness at the impending loss of the iconic landmark.

"I was here when they built it back in the 1970s," said Gary Jaeb, who operates a tourism company out of Yellowknife. "We spend a lot of time on the lake and stuff, and it has been a really good landmark."

While the demolition makes fiscal sense, said Shadrach McLeod, the Robertson Headframe performed a useful function.

"As a landmark, it will be sorely missed," he said.


Fight for A New Day

The fight to save a pilot healing program for men who use violence against loved ones heated up in November.

Deputy Justice minister Martin Goldney told Yellowknifer at the time the program was under review as the date funding was set to expire loomed Dec. 31. This caused an outcry in the city from frontline workers and MLAs, who testified to the program's successes in legislative assembly. In legislative assembly on Nov. 2, things got a bit raucous as regular members grilled Justice Minister Louis Sebert about the program.

Hay River North MLA R. J. Simpson suggested Sebert "check his facts" after Sebert disagreed with him that A New Day's services are offered to people in remand. People in the gallery who had come to watch the discussion could be seen shaking their heads when they disagreed with the minister's assertions and MLAs even shouted, "Wrong!" at times, in a style made famous by President-elect Donald Trump during the American presidential debates.

Within weeks, the Department of Justice announced it would extend funding for the program by six months. Meanwhile the review, completed in late November, found the program has been successful after a rocky start. The department stated it would send out a request for proposals to run A New Day, which is currently administered by Tree of Peace Friendship Centre.

Dominion flies south

Many people in the mining industry were saddened and angered to hear Dominion Diamond announce on Nov. 7 the company was moving its head office to Calgary.

Dominion Diamond CEO Brendan Bell stated the move was to be completed by mid-2017 and would result in 100 staff leaving the city. He stated at the time negotiations were ongoing in regards to staff left behind. NWT Chamber of Commerce president Richard Morland was one of the loudest critics of the move. He said he was "profoundly disappointed" to hear it.

"Brendan ... and the board members better get their tails up to the North and explain themselves very clearly," he told Yellowknifer, adding the territorial government also had some culpability in the move.

"The GNWT has a role to play in this," he said. "When they say they're open for business, they need to put their money where their mouth is, and provide incentives."

Northerners talk Trump win

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States may have been the biggest news of November, so no surprise Yellowknifers had something to say about it.

Lyda Fuller, executive director of the Yellowknife YWCA, called Trump's treatment of women "appalling."

"He has represented himself as a xenophobic, racist and misogynist man who attains power and privilege with little or no intention of using these to improve the well-being of people whom he perceives as different," she stated.

Stephanie Irlbacher-Fox, an adjunct processor of public police for Carleton University, worried his behaviour would normalize his behaviour, such as cheating, lying, sexual assault, bullying and questionable business deals. She did concede however that his pro-business policies might benefit the North.

"It could be positive for the Northern economy - and I can't believe I'm saying that," she said.

Diavik lays off 51 workers

The resource sector continued along its bumpy path at the end of November with Diavik Diamond Mine announcing 51 layoffs at the mine. The company, Diavik Diamond Mines Inc., which is a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, cited "current market challenges" for the layoffs. Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann stated he was disappointed by the news.

"Mining is the biggest sector of our economy and provides jobs for many Northerners," he stated.

"Diavik's announcement shows that industry here continues to face challenges."

At the time of the announcement, Yellowknifer reported the price of diamonds had fallen by about 20 per cent over the past two years.

MLAs head to Vancouver on pension trip

Five sitting MLAs and five other territorial government workers took a $14,000 trip to Vancouver in order to meet with the investment firms in charge of MLA pension accounts at the end of November.

The politicians on the trip sit on the legislative assembly's Board of Management, which has a mandate to look after the MLA pension accounts. The delegation stayed at the Wedgewood Hotel, which bills itself as a "luxury boutique hotel and spa." Legislative assembly clerk Tim Mercer explained the expenses from the trip came from the pension plan itself.

"There are no public funds used for these meetings," he said. "The pension plan has assets of about $50 million. Members contribute about nine per cent of their (gross) pay to those pension funds."

Mercer did concede MLA pay comes from public funds.

John Howard Society fires executive director

A familiar face in Yellowknife courtrooms and downtown streets was fired from the John Howard Society on Nov. 14.

Lydia Bardak, the organization's former executive director, said her firing was probably linked to tardiness in filing paperwork, which has resulted in the John Howard Society losing charitable status.

She told Yellowknifer she had been working towards regaining that designation, and making progress, when she was let go. In the meantime, the Department of Justice said it would be stepping in to make sure the programs administered by the John Howard Society didn't fall off the rails. The department paid the society to co-ordinate a community justice committee meant to bring together perpetrators and victims in an effort to get resolution outside court. It also administered the Fine Option Program, which gave people the ability to work off fines through community services.

Lynn Brooks, who worked with Bardak as a volunteer on the community justice committee, lamented the move.

"Her work at the jail, her work on the street, her work on the justice committee, her work every day was to assist people in the community - both victims and perpetrators - get back to equilibrium and restore justice," she said.

In mid-December, the society announced former Yellowknife Centre MLA Robert Hawkins as acting executive director. The move raised eyebrows, as he was a vocal critic of the downtown day shelter when it was being run by the John Howard Society under Bardak.

Fentanyl scare

On Nov. 25, the Department of Health and Social Services announced a public advisory after eight people experienced fentanyl overdoses over the course of two days.

That weekend, RCMP executed a search warrant on a Borden Drive residence in full hazmat gear, where police later announced they had discovered a designer drug called furanyl fentanyl. This is the first time police have discovered furanyl fentanyl in Yellowknife. Furanyl fentanyl is described as less potent than the drug simply labelled as "fentanyl" although it has been blamed for at least one death in Surrey, B.C., last summer, where numerous people overdosed after smoking crack cocaine laced with the drug. Charges were laid Nov. 30 against Darcy Oake in relation to the investigation. He was charged with unlawfully importing and trafficking furanyl fentanyl into Yellowknife, possession of furanyl fentanyl for the purpose of trafficking, criminal negligence causing bodily harm by providing a person with furanyl fentanyl, and failing to comply with a court order from Oct. 27, 2015 not to purchase, possess or consume a controlled substance.

Deepak International Ltd. loses diamond trademark

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment announced in November it is terminating trademark licensing agreements with Deepak International Ltd.

This means Deepak International no longer is an approved Northwest Territories diamond manufacturer, and is no longer allowed to use the polar bear trademark. Deepak International was granted exclusive use of the trademark in 2013. At the time, then-minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment Dave Ramsay called Deepak's trademark a "rebirth" for the diamond industry in Yellowknife and the NWT.

Things didn't work out that way. Deepak International Ltd.'s plans to open diamond polishing plants ended up with lender Callidus Captial Corp. filing - and winning - a lawsuit against the company, president and CEO Deepak Kumar and his wife Ragini Kumar.


Fried chicken coming back to Yk

Those mourning the loss of fried chicken in Yellowknife after the closure of Kentucky Fried Chicken were told they could finally wipe away those tears.

On Dec. 2, Yellowknifer reported franchisee Perry Campbell was set to bring Mary Brown's Famous Chicken & Taters to Old Airport Road by mid-January.

"The project is going fantastic right now," he said.

Kentucky Fried Chicken shuttered in 2015, leaving a hen-sized gap in the city's fried chicken market.

Campbell, a self-described connoisseur of deep fried chicken, said he's expecting to have a very busy restaurant.

The new Mary Brown's is expected to have a drive-thru, parking and seating for 24 in a 1,700-square-foot space.

City mourns death of 11-year-old

Students and staff at Range Lake North School were reeling after the sudden death of Ava Lizotte on Dec. 9.

She died six days after complaining about a pain in her leg, which doctors suspected was an infection that spread to her blood and caused sepsis.

Yellowknife Education District No. 1 superintendent Metro Huculak said the school was hit hard by the tragedy.

"We're all devastated about it because we're like a family here and (Ava's mom) is part of are family. When someone's hurting, we all hurt," he said.

Ava's mother, Courteney Lizotte, works as supervisor of instruction at the Yellowknife Education District No. 1 board office.

Range Lake North School had counsellors on hand and gave students and teachers two days without classes in order to grieve.

New diamond man comes to town

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment announced Almod Diamonds Limited was ready to set up shop at a former factory on Diamond Row.

The company has been approved as an NWT Diamond Manufacturer by the GNWT. Industry, Tourism and Investment Minister Wally Schumann said Almod is a good fit for the territory.

"Almod brings decades of experience as a manufacturer, polisher and retailer of diamonds," he said.

Almod CEO and president Albert Gad said he hoped to cash in on the tourism boom in the NWT by opening a retail store here as well.

"Imagine people going on 5th Avenue or in Paris or in London and walking into a shop to buy a five-carat diamond," he said.

"It would be a tremendous amount of money. Now imagine if you could actually come to the source and save a lot of money."

Gad said his company would be ready for production within three to six months. The operation was expected to employ about 10 people cutting and polishing stones - but Gad said those jobs won't be going to Northerners, instead being filled with previous employees from other parts of the world, at least for the first two years.

That's how long he said it will take to train Northerners how to cut Almod's proprietary, patented diamond cut, which is named the Crown of Light.

Five and a half years for Fraser Arms shooter

NWT Supreme Court Justice Shannon Smallwood handed Travis Campbell, 28, of Langley, B.C., a five-and-a-half year sentence after an April 2015 shooting at Fraser Arms apartment building.

On Dec. 15, he plead guilty to intentionally discharging a firearm while being reckless to the life and safety of another person. The shooting left one man with a bullet wound to the shoulder and neighbouring apartment tenants in fear for their lives.

Campbell was also given six months each for carelessly transporting a firearm and failing to stop in a motor vehicle while being pursued by police. He will concurrently serve this time with his first sentence.

Brendan Paul, 20, of Yellowknife, was sentenced to 30 months in jail for being an accessory to Campbell's crimes, namely for attempting to toss away the gun Campbell fired.

While the shooting was underway, Fraser Arms residents were taking cover. One woman in a second-floor Fraser Arms East apartment was hiding in her bathroom when a bullet smashed through her living room window, landing only a few feet away from a man who was also in the residence. A second bullet flew through the window of a third-floor apartment and became lodged in a wall near the ceiling. Nobody was home at the time.

Haze dissipates around legal weed

The federal government released its task force report Dec. 13, outlining 80 recommendations for how to go about legalizing marijuana.

One of the more controversial recommendations was to set an age limit at 18-years old, but leave the door open for territorial and provincial governments to align this age with existing age limits for sales of alcohol. The territory's chief public health officer Dr. Andre Corriveau expressed hesitation about the proposed age limit.

"From a public-health perspective, we have good evidence - scientific evidence - that the brain continues to develop into the early 20s," he told Yellowknifer.

Other recommendations included to avoid selling alcohol and marijuana at the same location, permit marijuana lounges and other dedicated spots for pot smoking, allow territories and provinces to regulate retail sales, a prohibition on edible products that look like candy and could appeal to children and permit personal possession of up to 30 grams.

The Liberal government plans to introduce legislation for the legalization of marijuana this spring.

Premier disses Arctic drilling ban

As environmentalists applauded a Dec. 20 announcement from U.S. President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to ban oil and gas drilling in Arctic waters, Premier Bob McLeod expressed concern.

"We thought with devolution we were long past the point of having unilateral decisions made about the North being made in Ottawa - or in this case Vancouver," he told Yellowknifer.

The premier said he was given only two hours' notice of the announcement via phone. He added Trudeau had agreed to meet with territorial premiers early this month to discuss these issues. McLeod said he hopes this meeting will take place in the North.

Yellowknife names new top administrator

The City of Yellowknife announced on Dec. 21 it had hired Sheila Bassi-Kellett as its new senior administrative officer.

Bassi-Kellett will fill a vacancy created by outgoing administrator Dennis Kefalas, who is leaving his post to move back to the director of public works position.

The new hire is a 30-year resident of Yellowknife who Mayor Mark Heyck lauded for her long, positive record in the public sector. Bassi-Kellett's experience includes a stint as senior administrative officer of Tulita, a community of about 470 people in the Sahtu. She also worked with the GNWT for about 25 years. She was assistant deputy minister with the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs from 2006 to 2010 during a time when major changes to the way community governments are funded were underway. She was deputy minister of the Department of Human Resources from 2011 to 2014, overseeing transfer of federal positions to the territorial government as part of devolution. Premier Bob McLeod fired Bassi-Kellett in August 2014, though the government was tight-lipped about why beyond a news release stating it was "without cause" and not related to her job performance. She has most recently run a consulting firm in the city called Off Leash Consulting Ltd.


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