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YELLOWKNIFER MARCH 2020 REVIEW: Social distancing in the outdoors

Monika Schroeder, left, Zachary Young, Kira Young, Solomon Young and Sarah Cook pose during their "adventure sledding" trip on March 22. "It’s like hiking and sliding down any hill we find. We’ll go to Jolliffe Island. We were adventure skiing in Burwash earlier,” said Cook. NNSL photo
Monika Schroeder, left, Zachary Young, Kira Young, Solomon Young and Sarah Cook pose during their "adventure sledding" trip on March 22. "It’s like hiking and sliding down any hill we find. We’ll go to Jolliffe Island. We were adventure skiing in Burwash earlier,” said Cook. NNSL photo

The COVID-19-related restrictions saw most shops closed and almost all public events canceled. But Yellowknifers couldn't resist leaving their homes, tugging on their boots (or skis) and enjoying outdoor activities under a bright sky. With the Yellowknife Ski Club offering free skiing on its trails, and the still-frozen ice on Yellowknife Bay a flat playground for all ages, residents found their own ways to break out of hunkering down and to have fun.

‘Mahsi Maggie': councillor gives final nod to Indigenous relations adviser

City councillor Stacie Smith gave a final "Mahsi" to Maggie Mercredi, former Indigenous relations adviser for the City of Yellowknife, whose 18-month tenure officially ended on Feb. 21. Mercredi's position was not renewed during the city's budget vote in December.

Coun. Smith has been quite vocal in her support for retaining the position, as have other notable community figures, such as Ndilo Chief Ernest Betsina and social issues activist Arlene Hache.

Smith called the termination of Mercredi's position "extremely disappointing" and that much more work needs to be done to extend reconciliation between Indigenous and non-indigenous peoples at city hall.

Looking ahead, Mercredi agreed there is much more work to be done. She wants to see the creation of an Indigenous advisory committee or working group at city hall that would include staff, First Nations, Inuit and Metis representation from Yellowknife.

Hand sanitizer, face masks sell out amid coronavirus fears

People looking to stay healthy amid growing fears over the spread of the coronavirus were hard-pressed to find hand sanitizer in the city and business owners had no idea when they would be restocked.

Shelves at Sutherland Drugs were bared of alcohol-based sanitizers and protective medical masks, said pharmacist Aaron LaBorde.

"We ordered some in late January and they haven't showed up yet," said LaBorde. "They tell me they're going to send them to me when they're in stock, but I have no idea when that will be, and neither do they."

MLA expelled from chamber after refusing to apologize

Monfwi MLA Jackson Lafferty was expelled from the house after refusing to apologize and withdraw his statements alleging the premier broke the law.

During assembly, speaker Frederick Blake Jr. showed Lafferty the door once he refused to retract his allegations that Premier Caroline Cochrane broke the law and misled MLAs over the firing of Aurora College president Tom Weegar.

Instead of doing so, Lafferty doubled down. "It was never my intention to scandalize this house. I'm sorry if (my words) caused my fellow MLA discomfort. Truth and integrity, however, are more important than her feelings," he told MLAs in reference to Cochrane.

The dismissal follows Blake's original demand that Lafferty apologize. But there were no Tlicho interpreters working that day, so Lafferty refused to make a statement, arguing it was his right to speak and be understood in his language.

Lafferty had asked earlier that the session be closed until an interpreter was available, but Blake refused.

Yk Dene suing GNWT over Dettah Road land claim

A multi-million dollar luxury lodge project near Dettah was shelved amid a land claims lawsuit filed by the Yellowknives Dene First Nation (YKDFN) against the territorial government.

The suit concerns the government's alleged lack of consultation in its use of traditional YKDFN lands going back 31 years.

The lands in question were the site of the old Somba K'e Treatment Centre.

"(The GNWT) did the land transfer without telling us. They had a 30-year lease and it expired. In the agreement it says the land should revert back to the First Nation. But they didn't tell us that they sold it to somebody. And that somebody turned out to be the guy who was doing the resort," said Edward Sangris, chief of the Dettah YKDFN.

YKDFN is also seeking $5 million in damages for the government's failure to honour the First Nation's Section 35 rights under the Constitution Act of 1982, which safeguards Indigenous and treaty rights.

Yk schools close down

The Yellowknife Education District No. (Yk1) and Yellowknife Catholic Schools (YCS) moved to close their schools for the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year on March 22.

The motion received unanimous votes in favour by all seven members of the Yk 1 board of trustees. The motion was issued following the advice of the chief public health officer that all social gatherings be cancelled to facilitate social distancing.

Joining the teleconference were several parents of Yk1 students, who expressed concern over several issues including whether online learning would be introduced for the remainder of the school year, the transitioning between grades and what would happen with Grade 12 graduation.

In a message on its website, YCS said it is prepared to support the recommendation to close schools for the 2019- 2020 year.