Beaufort Delta residents, leaders push for northern N.W.T. bubble with Yukon
'Yellowknife definitely benefits more' from the current rules, says Lawrence Neyando
For Ken Kyikavichik, the announcement last week, that fully vaccinated people entering the N.W.T. only have to isolate for eight days before taking a COVID-19 test, was a step in the right direction.
"I was pleased to see some flexibility," said Kyikavichik, grand chief of Gwich'in Tribal Council. "This does make a difference. A small difference, but it does make a difference,"
But Kyikavichik wants to see more for the region.
He said the GTC has been advocating territorial officials for an exemption or bubble between the Beaufort Delta region and the Yukon.
"We do need to see an acknowledgement that we are set out here in the Beaufort Delta [far] from many of the necessities that larger centres, such as Yellowknife, currently enjoy," Kyikavichik said.
"Our people would like to see the same, and have the ability [to] travel into the Yukon to not only purchase the items they need, but see some of their friends and family."
Kyikavichik said he understands that the bubble could close if there are outbreaks, but says Yukon and the N.W.T. have both been able to keep the cases low so far.
He also said this year has been pretty difficult on the Gwich'in community as there have been many deaths (unrelated to COVID-19), particularly in Inuvik and Old Crow. Many family members have missed funerals because of the travel restrictions.
"Inuvik is not like Yellowknife," he said. "For us in the Mackenzie Delta, we are limited when it comes to our availability of stores.… Being able to get a cup of coffee is something that people in Yellowknife take for granted."
Motorcycle business on the rocks
Lawrence Neyando had one season of summer motorcycle tours through his business Arctic Motorcycle Adventures and Apparel before the pandemic hit in 2020.
The Gwich'in man hasn't run tours since and says he won't be running any this summer.
He said the new changes that will allow some tour operators to bring tourists from out of the territory to an isolated location won't have an impact on his business.
He feels that a lot of N.W.T.'s regulations benefit Yellowknife more than the communities, and most of the people making the rules are based there as well.
"Yellowknife definitely benefits more, especially for leaders that live out there," Neyando said.
"It's easy for them to make these rules. They are in the land of the living. They can go to restaurants. They definitely have a better set-up than somebody in Inuvik or Fort McPherson."
He's also hoping for a Mackenzie Delta-Yukon bubble.
"The Northwest Territories and the premier of the Yukon — they need to sit down and they have to come up with something," said Neyando.
"Everybody that goes to Whitehorse from Inuvik … spends at least $5,000 or more stocking up on groceries, getting their vehicles fixed ... buying vehicles."
He said many people are shipping vehicles out for repairs, since there's no local dealership and no shop that can do bigger repair work or warranty repairs.
New truck, but not so fast
Tony Devlin is in the process of ordering a custom-made vehicle that will be delivered to the dealership in Whitehorse. He'd like to be able to go pick it up himself without having to isolate on both sides of the border.
And he doesn't want to have someone else drive it up the Dempster for him.
"I don't want the first 1,000-1,500 kilometres of my brand new, custom vehicle … to be driven by someone else," said Devlin. "That sort of takes away the point of having a brand new vehicle that you can call your own."
"I'm very positive towards pushing a bubble," he said. "With the understanding of how close the Beaufort Delta is to the Yukon region, it should at least be considered."