The all-season road to Whatì will be called the Tłı̨chǫ Highway or Highway 9.
The road, which had previously been called the Tłı̨chǫ All-Season Road, has been renamed to recognize “the importance of this new highway for the Tłı̨chǫ region.”
Set to open in the fall of 2021, the new highway will help cut living costs, support new social opportunities and attract mining businesses, according to a joint statement from the Tłı̨chǫ Government and the GNWT.
“This road is the result of many years of planning, partnerships and hard work by former
and present leaders and our collective governments,” George Mackenzie, Grand Chief, Tłı̨chǫ Government. “This is the way any projects on Indigenous land should be developed.”
The completion of the project will help improve access to remote communities.
Currently, the winter roads to Gamètì and Wekweètì can only open for the season after the
winter road to Whatì has opened. That is the winter road that is most vulnerable to
fluctuating conditions, according to the GNWT.
The project has been proceeding on schedule despite the COVID-19 pandemic, something the GNWT called “pretty remarkable.”
There had been health concerns related to the project, with a large number of the workers on the project coming from the south, where COVID-19 cases are spiking.
Additionally, alcohol is prohibited in Whatì, and some community leaders had raised concerns the road would result in an increase alcohol being brought into the community.
But Greg Hanna, a Department of Infrastructure spokesperson, said in a press conference in October the issue had been considered in an environmental risk assessment, with the Department of Health and Social Services “particularly involved” in the process.