The 2021 municipal budget for Yellowknife will be dedicating $150,000 towards reconciliation related programs.
This will include $10,000 for the Elders-in-residence program being held at the library.
There will also be money going towards other culturally sensitive education and training for city staff.
“We live in a community that’s 25 per cent Indigenous,” says Sheila Bassi-Kellett, the city’s senior administration officer. “Reconciliation is a really important part of this, and supporting our staff to have a really good understanding and building up the appreciation for the context of Indigenous peoples in Yellowknife, the richness of the history, the incredible richness of the culture, the experiences that people have had, that’s a really important thing.”
The budget, released on Monday, focused on the upcoming referendum on raising the borrowing limit to build a new aquatic facility.
If residents vote yes, the city will be borrowing $10 million to build the facility; if they vote no, there are several options, explains Grant White, the director of community services.
One would be to lower the scope of the aquatic centre, decreasing the amount needed, another would be to renovate the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool, which would involve closing the facility for two years.
A third option is that the project is completely halted. The only work that would be completed on the Ruth Inch Memorial Pool would be basic upgrades as well as accessibility renovations.
The tax rate change was also presented on Monday.
In order for services to continue at their current level, the tax rate change will be 13.44 per cent.
In 2021 the tax rate change was 11.92 per cent, but the city council reduced it to 2.5 per cent.
Vaccine mandate approved
However, the economic situation was one vote away from being $213,000 worse a year.
This came as city council voted in favour of a vaccine mandate for municipal facilities.
On Monday afternoon, city officials provided a presentation on the money lost if the city didn’t implement the policy and was forced to limit the number of people accessing the facilities.
Had they voted against the mandate, administration expected the city to lose the $213,000 due to the limits on people who could attend facilities. A facility is only allowed 25 people indoors if they do not enforce a vaccine mandate, that number increases to 100 if they do implement the vaccine mandate.
A contentious vote was held later Monday night and included several presentations by Yellowknifers advocating for and against the policy.
Cathy Allooloo was one of the presenters, who referenced the Nuremberg Code and human rights legislation. The Nuremberg Code refers to human experimentation by Nazis on prisoners of war; using comparisons of the Holocaust for vaccine mandates has been denounced as offensive by several Jewish organizations.
Allooloo prefaced her statement by saying she was not comparing the two events, and then proceeded to compare them.
“I am not comparing so called anti-vaxxers to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust, yet, I am comparing our present point in history to the 1930s where a small number understood where this was headed and many more got swept along with the crowd and did nothing to stop it,” she said.
Councillor Julian Morse interrupted Allooloo to state he couldn’t sit silently and listen.
“The comparison of the vaccine mandate to the Holocaust is completely inappropriate,” he said.
Additionally the NWT Human Rights Commission says a person who chooses to not be vaccinated for non-medical reasons is not protected.
Tom McLennan, another Yellowknife resident, presented in favour of the vaccine mandate.
McLennan says health officials have been correct throughout the pandemic and made territory a safe place and urged council to put their trust in experts.
“These policies have worked, Yellowknife has been an awesome place to be during COVID,” he says.
Mayor Rebecca Alty, councillors Morse, Shauna Morgan, Cynthia Mufandaedza and Robin Williams voted in favour of the policy.
Those who voted against it included councillors Niels Konge, who apologized last week after comparing the vaccine mandate to racial segregation; Steve Payne; Rommel Silverio, a registered nurse; and Stacie Smith.