Highway 7 at the British Columbia border south of Fort Liard will, from Tuesday, reopen to two-way traffic at specific times each week – almost a year and a half after closing to most inbound traffic.
The territorial government said the road will open to two-way traffic each Tuesday from 10 a..m until 2 p.m. and during two Friday windows, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and then 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Residents planning to use the border crossing must submit a self-isolation plan within 24 hours of returning to the territory, the GNWT said. Non-residents must have an approved self-isolation plan on arrival at the N.W.T. border checkpoint.
In a news release on Monday, the territory said the new operating hours were “one in a series of changes leading to an eventual full reopening” of the border.
Currently, people can leave the territory via Highway 7 by appointment but cannot re-enter the N.W.T. using that route. Only essential supply or service vehicles can enter Highway 7 from the B.C. side.
The territorial government previously set Fort Liard a threshold of 80 per cent full vaccination among residents aged 12 and over before reopening of the border could begin.
According to the GNWT’s COVID-19 dashboard, the hamlet hit that mark as of November 22.
The Acho Dene Koe First Nation last week said the territorial government had “committed to look at a third weekday to open the Highway 7 border checkpoint.” There was no mention of a third weekday in Monday’s GNWT news release.
“The third day will not come into effect until later in December, to allow the government to plan and provide the proper communication to all N.W.T. residents of this change,” the First Nation said.
“While this new procedure for openings is not entirely what the leadership of Acho Dene Koe First Nation and the Hamlet of Fort Liard were requesting of the Government of the Northwest Territories, it is an improvement.”
Hamlet of Fort Liard council documents from November 15 show councillors seeking assurances that there would be “adequate enforcement and patrols at the gate“ once the border reopens and better communication between public health officers and Fort Liard’s leadership.
“Council recognized the wish to have the border gate on Highway 7 opened more frequently and at more convenient times so that residents of Fort Liard can cross into British Columbia,” those documents state.
“This must also be balanced with the need to keep the community COVID-free.”
Councillors were also reported to have expressed concern that existing patrols of the border were inadequate.