Recently elected Dettah Chief Ernest Betsina was told he could not appoint Great Slave MLA Katrina Nokleby as an essential worker during last month’s evacuation of Yellowknife, Ndilo and Dettah in a letter accusing the MLA of being “criminally liable.”

NNSL obtained a letter, dated Aug. 26, which was signed by outgoing Dettah chief Edward Sangris and current Ndilo chief Fred Sangris. Neither Sangris could be reached for comment but a source with the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) did confirm the letter was signed electronically and hand delivered to Betsina that day.

It was on that day that RCMP confirmed it had received a complaint about Nokleby entering Yellowknife following an NNSL Media story the previous day where Nokleby commented that Betsina — who had yet to be sworn in as Dettah chief at the time — had gotten the MLA past a checkpoint Aug. 23 by claiming Nokleby was serving him as a geological engineering advisor to Betsina. Only people deemed to be essential workers were allowed to be in the Yellowknife area following an evacuation order issued Aug. 16 due to wildfires threatening the city, N’dilo, Dettah and the Ingraham Trail. Nokleby told NNSL Media she had received authorization as an essential worker by Betsina after following a procedure that was outlined by Municipal and Community Affairs Minister Shane Thompson.

“In reference to the recent events regarding the re-entry of volunteers as essential staff for YKDFN Emergency Operations, we must inform you that the approval of all essential staff must go through the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC),” reads the letter.

“Maintaining the integrity of the Emergency Operations is central to the safety of Yellowknives Dene First Nation and their communities of Dettah and Ndilo. YKDFN and its EOC are working closely with the City of Yellowknife, the Government of Northwest Territories, the Government of Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces and other authorized agencies. This coordinated effort requires all teams to be working in tandem to achieve the protection of our communities and the safe return of residents.

“The referenced actions have undermined this integrity. It would be appreciated for you to treat this matter seriously and proceed with caution in your role as a EOC volunteer moving forward. Furthermore, on the matter of Katrina Nokleby, MLA for Great Slave, her continued unauthorized presence in the communities of Dettah and Ndilo poses a risk to YKDFN, its members and its staff due to the criminal liability involved.

“You are requested, with respect, to instruct Ms. Nokleby to leave the communities of Dettah and Ndilo.”

No charges have been laid by the RCMP as of yet.

The letter was sent to NNSL shortly after the territory’s integrity commissioner threw out a complaint against Nokleby from Thompson.

Thompson had claimed that he was being harassed by Nokleby, citing several exchanges he had with her over the past four years.

However, the commissioner ruled Nokleby’s conduct was simply political rhetoric, though he advised Nokleby to “carefully consider in advance the effect of her choice of words and tone.”

NNSL has reached out to Nokleby for comment.

Read the letter here.


Eric Bowling

Your source for all things happening in the Beaufort Delta. Eric jumped at the chance to write for the Inuvik Drum after cutting his teeth in Alberta. He enjoys long walks, loud music and strong coffee....

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  1. Criminally liable is a huge remark to make for an adult choosing to stay in areas deemed unsafe. If she lives out there it makes more sense but even as a leader I can’t see why not? She can see first hand where they can improve and where things were considered correct. Overall, my opinion is she could be blasted for a lot worse than this and the fires got the people’s tension right up. Hopefully this sort of blows over.

  2. The evacuation order had a shelter in place option. The press conference Thursday before the deadline it was made clear that although they were advising people to leave, no one was being forced (I.e. officials were not removing people from their homes). Are all the people who stayed behind and sheltered in place criminally liable? It seems only people who left and came back crossing the barricade can be charged. Nokebly ‘jumped through the hoops’ so to speak. I don’t see how what she did was wrong. Poor optics maybe, but how could she be charged?

  3. That’s why they’re out going leaders; as the review of this year’s fire season gets underway the most significant problem was the lack of leadership especially when there was no evacuation plan that resulted in lack of coordination, poor decision making, and a needless amount of money spent due to this mass exodus.