Dawson City, Yukon Friday, April 5, 1996


Smooshing during Spring Carnival

Feature Stories

Gould Denied YOOP Membership

by Timothy Sawa

It was on a rainy September afternoon in Dawson City that this 74-year-old great-grandmother sat down to tell her topsy-turvy tale of victories and defeats. Today, more than nine years after Madeleine Gould's unsuccessful application for membership to the male-only Yukon Order of Pioneers and following three failed appeals in three different levels of court, her only satisfaction is that the whole affair is finally over.

"Can't they get it through their heads," Gould said in her interview last September. "All I want is to be recognized as a pioneer in the Yukon Order of Pioneers."

In 1987, when Gould first applied for her membership to the respected 100-year-old fraternal organization, her application was denied because she was a woman. Last week, seven out of nine justices who heard the Supreme Court Appeal agreed that Gould's gender will keep her from joining the YOOP and from receiving the recognition she feels she deserves.

"I still feel that women should be recognized along with the men," Gould told reporters moments after the Supreme Court decision was announced, "but I'm really just glad the whole thing is over. Now I can go back to a more normal life."

AFTER Gould's application for YOOP membership was denied in 1987 she filed a complaint with the Yukon Human Rights Commission. The commission's Board of Adjudication subsequently decided in Gould's favour and ordered the YOOP to admit her. But the YOOP appealed to a higher court and won; then the commission appealed back and lost and then back again and lost, until a small-town squabble was transformed into a Supreme Court Appeal with implications for women across Canada.

The supreme court battle, and preceding lower court scuffles, centred primarily on the technical argument of whether the YOOP and its functions are private or public in nature. If the courts decided the YOOP -- and its primary function of compiling Yukon and YOOP history -- was public, then, according to Human Rights legislation, Gould must be allowed to join. The courts, however, decided otherwise.

"To put the case in a nutshell," explained the YOOP's local legal council Richard Buchan, "the court found that the activity involving the collection of historical information, as opposed to the delivery of that historical information, is not an activity that falls within the sphere of what constitutes a service to the public."

So, according to the decision, Gould could legally be excluded from the process based on her gender.

Some local Women's groups and the Yukon Human Rights Commission, however, feel that by excluding pioneers like Gould from the process of collecting historical information will only perpetuate an imbalanced view of Yukon history.

They also feel that the Supreme Court of Canada is too far removed from the Yukon to recognize the importance of history to a territory whose very identity hangs on its existence and whose economy is largely based on the tourism that results from it.

"I think for anyone not living in the Yukon it's hard for them to understand what kind of an organization the Yukon Order of Pioneers is," said Jan Langford, a spokesperson for the Yukon Women's Council. (The council raised $6,000 locally to fund their own lawyer who also participated in the Supreme Court Appeal.)

"But we feel that we did get our message across," she added. "We've been saying all along the YOOP have to be seen in the context of what it is in the Yukon and the fact that it's a public organization with a public profile and by not having women as members it really does harm women like Madeleine (Gould).

"And we hope that people understand that this is just old fashioned sexism. They're way in the dark ages on this one."

BEHIND closed doors, most long time residents of Dawson will tell you they don't support Gould in her attempt to hi-jack the male-only rule of the YOOP. In fact, many say, they are darn-right sick of hearing about it.

"I'm not surprised and I'm not disappointed," said Wendy Bilton, after she had heard the outcome of the Supreme Court Appeal. Bilton has lived and worked in Dawson City since 1971, when she moved here with her family.

"It's always been a man's club and it should continue to be a man's club," she added, while cruising a menu in a local restaurant. "I think they deserve their own club."

The Pioneer Women of the Yukon, which started as a female off-shoot of the YOOP in 1994, also wanted no part in Gould's fight. Although the group has kept a deliberate distance from the case they do say "we support the Yukon Order of Pioneers one hundred per cent."

And, of course, most members of the YOOP -- at least the vocal ones -- are very much opposed to women taking part in their club's affairs. "We have a constitution we've abided by for a hundred years," said Laurent Cyr, the group's Chief Historian, before the decision came out. "Why should we change it now."

WHAT originally began as a small-potato Dawson dispute has been dragged through three levels of court and into the national spotlight with a combined estimated legal cost of $50,000. And all for what?

"Although there was not a definitive test (established with this case) there was certainly a clarification between what constitutes private and what constitutes public activity in the context of human rights legislation (and in social organizations)," said YOOP lawyer Buchan in a press conference in his Whitehorse office.

"If this case is going to stand for anything," he added, "it'll probably stand for that particular principle and, to some extent ... in the developing of human rights legislation jurisprudence in Canada."

It will also assist future courts and tribunals -- like the Human Rights Board of Adjudication that originally decided in Gould's favour -- what should fall into public and private arenas, so the Supreme Court won't be called upon again in a similar situation.

But the case means much more than a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo to the Yukon Human Rights Commission, who has been the driving force behind the case from the beginning and, who will eventually pick up the entire legal tab.

"What it means to Madeleine Gould, perhaps because of a technicality, is that she's not considered to be a pioneer," said Margaret McCullough, Director of the Yukon Human Rights Commission. "And Gould was still denied on the basis of being a woman, and that's regrettable and perhaps archaic, in this day and age."

As for Gould, who has been patiently waiting since 1987 to find out if she would be allowed the recognition she so desperately wants, must be content in knowing herself that her 50 years in the Yukon should not go unacknowledged. And that the years she spent working beside her husband at their local mining operation, shouldn't go without the acknowledgment granted to any other person -- man or woman -- in the same situation.

"In fact," Gould added, with a chuckle, "I think some of us worked even harder than the men."

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The Case Chronology

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Thawing Out in the Klondike

by Dan Davidson


Suncatchers Figure Skating Club

The ice miner is melting away in the lee of Diamond Tooth Gerties. This remnant of the Centennial Ball has been guarding the door of the casino for a few weeks.

He will deteriorate a lot faster now that the crowds going to the kids' lip sync contests on Sunday night have bowled him over, but on last Sunday afternoon Gary Hunt's ice sculpture still seemed to be holding the spring at bay.

One armed as he was, he would have had to work at it, for Dawsonites were everywhere under the warm March sun, enjoying the snow and the fresh air and doing their best to say that the worst of the weather is over.

Sunday afternoon on the ice bridge was an action packed affair, with remote controlled airplanes looping the loop on one side of the river and 15 dog teams dashing off down the trail in the Sunnydale Classic at the other. These were just two of the popular events at this year's version of spring carnival, or Thaw di gras.

The carnival is an annual event which now jumps on the heels of the Percy De Wolf Mail Run and keeps the town hopping for two full days of 9 A.M. to well past midnight excitement.

Coordinator Lori Sprokkreeff is sure that this year's event was "the biggest and best ever" due to a perfect combination of weather and volunteers.

A partial list of events includes: snowshoe baseball, a Family Hockey Tournament, all sorts of not-so-serious games, a Klondike chili cook-off, skeet shooting, kids' dog races, a relay race, a "Mad Trapper" team pentathlon, a show by the Suncatcher's Figure Skating Club, three lip sync events for the kids and a sold out community dinner on Sunday.

The Percy De Wolfe committee scheduled its banquet to fit into the weekend and the Support Comite Francophone de Dawson organized a "Cabane a sucre" or sugaring of the snow to help mark the weekend.

Sprokkreeff reports that all of her volunteers showed up for the events as needed and that the support of the business community was also overwhelming.

The only thing that didn't come off successfully was the fireworks show on Sunday night. There were problems getting the goodies to Dawson on time due to the need to transport them by truck, and so the explosive finale to last week has had to be postponed until the next available Friday night.

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Watch Out for a Ton of Gold

by Nancy Schreiber

O.k. Dawson City, are you ready for this one? There is a project that the Klondyke Centennial Society is presently working on that is of international proportions, The "Ton of Gold" Reenactment. The "Ton of Gold" Committee is presently working with the Skagway Centennial Committee of Alaska and the Klondike Gold Rush Committee, Seattle, Washington, in the reenactment of the arrival of the "Klondyke Millionaires" with a ton of gold. I've been told that Mr. John Gould was the driving force behind this idea.

On July 17, 1897, 68 'Klondike Miners' arrived in Seattle, Washington, from Dawson City via St. Michael, Alaska ,on board the S.S. Portland with $700,000 worth of gold. Each miner had anywhere from $5,000 to $230,000 in gold. With the arrival of the new "Klondike Millionaires" in Seattle, news of the Klondike Gold Strike flashed around the world. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people set out for the Klondike, including the Mayor of Seattle, beginning the "World's Greatest Gold Rush".

The historic route out taken by the first Klondike miners used sternwheel riverboat down the Yukon River from Dawson to St. Michaels in Western Alaska, then by ocean-going ship from St. Michael to Seattle and/or San Francisco.

Early in the planning stages of this reenactment, the Klondyke Centennial Society and the Skagway Centennial Committee determined that the most feasible way for moving the gold out in 1997 was upriver via Skagway. Ships cruising to Alaska no longer use the St. Michael route, but several come to Skagway in the summer. The committees approached Alaska Sightseeing / Cruise West, owners of the Spirit of '98, about using their ship for this special reenactment. The small ship looks a lot like the old steamers and makes regular trips between Skagway and Seattle. As it is, the ship is scheduled to arrive in downtown Seattle at the Bay Pavilion on July 19, 1997. Although two days off the historic date, the ship will arrive on a Saturday, just as it did in 1897, and will help kick off Seattle's Sea Fair and the Norths' Klondike Celebrations.

The Ton of Gold is approximately 29,165 ounces of gold. It measures out to be a 1.6 cubic feet box, worth an estimated $11,666,000.

Passages on the Spirit of '98 will be sold in the next coming months; the details are presently being finalized. Waterfront Park in Seattle will be renamed 'Gold Rush Park' upon the arrival of the Spirit of '98 with its Ton of Gold. This project will be accorded pomp and pageantry, parades, special ceremonies and loads of security. Newspaper callers will parade up and down the waterfront of Seattle, shouting the "Ton of Gold" and selling copies of the historic Seattle Post-Intelligencer edition from July 19, 1897 at a "Gold Rush Price". Booths will be set up by various businesses which operated during the Gold Rush boom, such as Bon Marche, Fredrick & Nelson, Filsons Wool, Chevron and Seafirst Bank. They will display period merchandise and costumes.

Preliminary planning is being carried out for an Alaska/Yukon Exposition in the Seattle King Dome to showcase the North as a destination of choice. Interestingly enough, in 1909 there was an Exposition of Alaska and Yukon in Seattle, Washington. In effect, the goal is to create a second stampede north.

Joe Ladue III and his daughter, Joan Vericruse, descendants of Joe Ladue, are coming to Dawson City for our Discovery Days Festival as invited guests of honour. Mr. Ladue will present a pouch of gold his grandfather took out of the Klondyke in '98 and it will be added to the 'Ton of Gold' Reenactment. Also committed to being a part of our Discovery Day Celebrations is Tom Saftig, Great Grandson of George Carmack, who will be accompanied by his family. It just gets better, doesn't it?!

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