Residents of a Northwest Territories hamlet appear poised to reach 80 per cent full vaccination, the threshold required for the N.W.T. government to begin reopening the Highway 7 border.
Highway 7, stretching down to the British Columbia border, is currently only open twice a week for people to leave the territory by appointment. The hamlet of Fort Liard sits along the highway about 40 kilometres north of the border.
Most people who leave via Highway 7 aren't allowed to come back that way. Only essential supply or service vehicles can enter Highway 7 from the B.C. side.
Yet change seems imminent, given the 80 per cent target. According to the NWT government's COVID-19 dashboard, Fort Liard sits at 79 per cent full vaccination among residents aged 12 and up. A further four percent of the population have had just their first shot.
How quickly the highway fully reopens once the target is reached is another question.
Richard Makohoniuk, a spokesperson for the N.W.T.'s COVID-19 Secretariat, said by email the community had chosen the 80 per cent threshold. When that goal is met, Makohoniuk wrote, “the COVID Secretariat will work with the community and Indigenous leadership to determine the next steps in reopening the border crossing.”
"When deemed appropriate," said Makohoniuk, the road will open to two-way traffic during specific time periods.
“Individuals crossing the border will still be required to follow all of the public health orders and requirements.”
Attempts to reach Fort Liard's elected leadership were unsuccessful and calls were not returned.
Makohoniuk said the N.W.T.'s fall COVID-19 outbreak had not delayed the process of reopening the highway. Fort Liard has reported just one case among more than 1,500 territory-wide since the start of August.
Boyd Clark, the Acho Dene Koe First Nation's band manager, said the Fort Liard-based First Nation had yet to receive an update regarding the highway.
In July, the First Nation set out a highway reopening plan that envisages starting by opening the border for two days each week in the morning and evening. The territorial government has since said that process may be modified.
Sarah Sibley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Cabin Radio