by Palma Berger
Parks Canada is so well known across Canada and even the world as having high standards of maintenance and preservation of not only the Parks system but also the Heritage of Canada. Taxpayers money has been used to preserve our history, our culture, what makes us Canadians, in short our heritage. Standards were high. Great care and pride taken by the employees. The City of Dawson in compliance with our historic heritage enacted by-laws that forced all residents to build to an historic code.
But rumbles came from Ottawa that there should be cut-backs, so the Yukon Parks worked to reorganize on a District basis in order to operate more efficiently. This was done with both management and employees working together and agreeing to these changes in the Yukon. Some sections were combined and vacant positions were not filled. They were really pleased to have saved $175,000 Ottawa was pleased.
Then came this year's budget, the great cutbacks were about to happen. Whatever went before did not matter. The Federal government had promised cutbacks, and Parks as part of Canadian Heritage Department was chosen as the first guinea-pig for employee takeover. Each region was given a criteria for positions that could be contracted out through employee takeover or other means. The Yukon section of Parks had by now had its regional office moved to Vancouver when Parks amalgamated with the Department of Canadian Heritage and became the so-called Pacific & Yukon Region.
Under this new agenda Parks operational side will be completely removed from the Department of Canadian Heritage and will be run by an 'Agency' who will administer our Heritage sites (and Parks) with their main focus being on having each site or 'component' pay its own way. This means in Dawson's short summer, our Parks section must pay its own way. One wonders where the emphasis will lie? Ensuring standards, maintenance, accurate interpretation and heritage/cultural integrity are maintained or having each separate component pay its own way?
As part of Ottawa's plans to do this they propose that the asset maintenance section (maintenance crew, mechanic, janitors and groundkeepers) be disbanded. The employees of this section are to be given an opportunity to get together to form their own company and present their proposal to Parks. The employees have already been informed this new company should not expect to charge more than 85% of the present basic wage for their employees.
The employees figure it will cost about $100,000 to set up the new company what with purchasing vehicles, equipment, supplies, warehouse space, oh, yes, the costs of a book-keeper etc. Parks guarantee the new company a three year contract only and then it goes to public tender when that period is up.
The normal lump sum payment (Early Departure Incentive) received on dismissal will not be given, so the employees will have to go to the bank for a loan. It is unlikely that the bank would provide a loan for a new unproven company that has a guarantee hire of only three years.
This new 'company', to be approved by Parks, must have a ratio of 50% + 1 of the laid-off employees. But whoever gains control of this company is under absolutely no obligation to retain the former employees on his payroll. They could fire them after a couple of months. As most maintenance is done in the summer, the jobs would quickly be filled by summer students. That is the EMPLOYEE TAKEOVER POLICY as the employees understand it. The policy had been announced before it had been formulated. It changes quite often. They live in uncertainty. They were told earlier this year that those affected would be receiving a letter by mid-June that "their position is potentially affected." People waited with baited breath for THE letter. Who was going to get it? Nobody got it ... yet. It will come in October. Probably. Who is to be affected? The tour guides have two years to show their set-up is feasible. If it is not, it is likely these positions will be let to private tender. What about the curators?
This new 'company' will affect the community as we will have yet another contractor in the community to compete with existing contractors for jobs. The key word is 'compete'. This will change the fabric of our community. Having to compete means they will be concentrating their energies on hunting down jobs, whereas with the security of a government job they are free to donate their after work time to the many volunteer organizations in town ; a much needed occupation.
But understand, Parks is not 'privatizing'. Sheila Copps has emphatically stated that. Although she could not make clear in a Peter Gzowski interview exactly what they're doing.
Parks employees are confused too. They were told just recently that the most valuable asset of Parks is their employees. Some employees are very skeptical.
After the Yukon's original multi-year effort at reorganization, last year Parks sent all Yukon District employees a Deputy Minister's Distinction Award in the form of a Certificate, accompanied by a letter which read in part "...(you) made a remarkable contribution despite the fact that many of the decisions made have or will impact on your personal life." Some were unhappy because they had never before received letters of appreciation for creativity shown or long hours given freely, but they get a letter when they save money? One particularly unhappy young man received his after being told his job was eliminated.
This reorganization has already had 3 permanent Dawson jobs eliminated 2 full time jobs moved to Whitehorse, and the two vacant positions in Dawson were not filled. These jobs and other proposed job cuts will take 300,000 - 400,000 in wages out of the community. This will undoubtedly affect businesses. The National component of the union working for Parks employees states that "Morally and in all ways the Canadian Government has and must continue to have a responsibility to communities which border on National Parks and Historic Sites."
This new direction of Parks Canada will certainly affect not only the lives of the laid-off employees, but also the town that has been their home.
by Dan Davidson
There are two types of concerts at the Dawson City Music Festival these days. The really noisy folks are over at the main stage tent in Minto Park on Saturday and Sunday evenings, rocking on the dance floor to the louder amplified sounds of the stage bands or perched on the bleachers and benches around the tent.
The folks who want to sit back and contemplate the music a bit more aren't here, at least not until the later part of the evening. Instead they are at one of the two church locations used this year, savoring more intimate performances, up close where you can see the musicians break a sweat hear the fingers move on the instruments. This year the evening concerts ran about two hours long and featured two sets.
Saint Paul's Anglican Church was the location for the Saturday night show, with Daniel Janke and bluesman Tim Williams. The building is in the middle of a renovation project, but since music is always under construction this was still fitting.
Janke, a perennial favorite at these events, turned in a soothing set on his koras, while Williams performed both solo and with his band.
Sunday night was Saint Mary's turn, and a standing room only crowd turned out to hear the folk tinged music of the Kate Friesen band and the Celtic funk of Orealis.
Friesen radiated a real joy in her performances, leaving the audience with the impression that this pastor's daughter really enjoys her work. There was lots of energy, gentle humour and personal connection in this band's material.
Orealis rocked the house to blistering guitar and flute solos with a heavy backbeat and driving drums. At the end of their set the floor was bouncing up and down along with the audience and it looked like the candles on the altar were in danger of falling off and silencing the drummer.
For the performers, the smaller venues are a chance to do their thing without the glare of spotlights and the distance imposed by the tent. They can see the effect they are having on their listeners in the most direct manner and seem to feel at once more at ease and more creative as a result.
compiled by Dan Davidson
In case you were too busy rocking over the Music Festival weekend to notice, there was an earthquake here on Sunday, July 21 about 1:38 PM.
Measuring 5.1 on the open ended Richter Scale, the quake occurred 90 kilometres northeast of town.
Discussing the matter with CBC radio on July 22, Kathy Jones-Gates said that she realized something was happening when her television screen started to flicker. Then there was a "strange rumble shaking and the windows rattled".
Elsewhere in town this reporter saw the petals on the flowers in a potted plant suddenly begin to vibrate, but as a truck was going by in the back lane at the time, thought nothing of it. The experience lasted less than 10 seconds.
A quake of this magnitude is considered "moderate".
by Dan Davidson
With a title like "Death in the Dining Room and other Lurid Tales of the Commissioner's Residence", locals and tourists might have been forgiven for wondering just what they were getting into at the Dawson Museum on July 23.
Inasmuch as the lecture was about a kind of detective work, and some corpses were involved, the title wasn't actually misleading at all, though it might have been sub-titled "The Case of the Four Curators" just for a lark.
The residence, built in 1901 to house the head of the Yukon's government was one of six major buildings built at that time to prove to the world that Dawson wasn't just another boom town. It was gutted by fire in 1906 and was restored. George and Martha Black held court there for 8 years. The building is over 8,000 square feet inside. Six rooms on the main floor have been the interior focus of the restoration project, which is replicating the look of the building in 1914.
Over the last ten years many parks specialists have been involved in the $1 million project, and three of them were introduced by Michael Gates, the former curator of Klondike National Historic Sites, whose new working title since reorganization is "cultural integrity specialist".
The project was both blessed and cursed by a comprehensive collection of photographs showing what the inside of the residence actually looked like. Without them, it would have been possible to restore the place to the look of a certain period. With them, more authenticity was demanded of the crew. The work was not without its challenges, and Gates' colleagues spoke to some of these.
The presentations were illustrated with slides showing the old photographs and restorations. Fortunately, the photographs, ledgers and auditor general's reports dealing with the residence do make it fairly easy to identify the items it contained. Some of them still exist and have been returned. Some can be substituted from the KNHS storehouses. Others had to be tracked down at specialty shops, bought at flea markets and yard sales and, in some cases, recreated.
Irene Romaniw is a Winnipeg resident and former teacher who became a specialist in cultural costumes and is now a textiles curator with the Department of Canadian Heritage.
Her presentation underscored the eclectic nature of the decor in the residence, which flourished during a period when Victorian and Edwardian styles overlapped, mingled with influences from both the United Kingdom and the United States. The taste of such arrangements may be questionable by modern standards, but Romaniw noted that it is not the job of a curator to improve on the original, just to reproduce it. A lot of "how to" books were available to people of the Black's era, and it seems they used many of them.
To Irene fell the task of replacing the draperies and curtains, which brings us to the actual crime that is associated with this project. The only fabric that would do for the drapes came from a British supplier and was available just in white. So the drapes had to be hand dyed to the proper shade for the rest of the room.
After all this had been all done things got interesting. The professional dyer took the fabric home with her in order to deliver it to Irene the next day. Then she and her husband went out for the evening.
"Lo and behold...thieves broke in to her house" Irene said. "They stole the VCR, the microwave and the sound system and used MY DRAPERY MATERIAL to wrap up the various pieces of loot."
The cost of the stolen draperies was recovered, but there weren't enough left to use as originally planned. They were died a darker colour and used in George Black's study while another set was prepared for the drawing room.
It was left to Paula Hassard, a Dawson resident who studied anthropology and archeology before getting into projects at Klondike National Historic Sites, to explain the meaning of the lecture's title. It was fashionable at the turn of the century and on up to the Great War, to feature a lot of trophies in a home's interior. The greeting hall of the residence contained several heads--moose and caribou--as well as an unusual chair made solely of moose antlers.
The real challenges for Hassard came in the dining room, where the custom of the day had placed a snowy owl in a full flight pose, and at least two grisly little wall hangings known as "dead-mounts". One of these was a brace of stuffed ducks, bound at the legs and hanging head down within a picture frame, as if they had been carried home from the hunt and hung right on the wall.
Audience reaction to the slides and to the actual sample piece Hassard brought along indicated that this fashion is clearly out of vogue in the 1990s.
Virginia Lockett is a Winnipeg based interpretative curator with Parks who began her career as an archeologist before becoming a specialist in 19th and 20th century decorative arts. She and Paula made numerous forays into the world of antiques to find vases, flower baskets, pictures, desk sets and other necessities.
Some things were more difficult to find than others. Copies of portraits of the reigning monarchs, Edward and his Queen, had to be purchased directly from the Keeper of Royal Collections in London.
After the lecture, refreshments were served in the gift shop, and Michael Gates baffled a few members of the audience with a fake display foods which will be part of the exhibit when it is complete.
by Dan Davidson
In an age when authority figures are supposed to be held in general disrepute and no one trusts the police, the Red Serge or Mounted Mountie program in Dawson City is a welcome change.
When Constable Cory Hoehn and Justin take to the streets between 10:30 in the morning and 4:30 in the afternoon, Monday through Saturday, they get nothing but positive attention and respect.
Cameras--both 35 mm and video--swivel into position automatically when the pair ride by and people rush to have their pictures taken somewhere in the vicinity of the star attraction.
Cory and Justin even helped to keep tempers down during the long ferry lineup on July 25 riding up and down the six block line-up several times during the day.
The program started here as part of the RCMP Centennials program last year, and has been maintained by a combination of Force and private sponsorship. Sponsors provide support in cash or in kind, in return for which Cst. Hoehn and Justin visit each sponsor regularly as part of their rounds.
Here in Dawson the program is funded by Westmark Hotels, Princess Tours, RCMP "M" Division, the YTG, the Klondyke Centennial Society, the Klondike Visitors Association, Triple "J" Hotel, Maximilian's, Klondike Nugget & Ivory, White Ram Manor B&B, Monte Carlo Ltd, Fifth Ave. B&B, Downtown Hotel, Wild & Wooly, Klondike Kate's, Dawson City B&B, Eldorado Hotel, Arctic Inland Resources, Dawson City Museum, Art's gallery, Klondike Transport Cory Hoehn, Greg Skuce, Dan Caley, Triple L Landscaping and the City of Dawson.
Justin is actually the property of Brian Dupont and Dawn Dickson, and can be found at the Red Serge Hitching Post beside the Klondyke Centennial Building on 3rd Avenue between patrols.
In terms of public relations, detachment commander Sgt. John Taylor is sure that the program is "worth its weight in gold." Besides being on daily patrol, the Red Serge appears at every public gathering of note that takes place during the riding season, so far including the Commissioner's Tea, Canada Day, the opening of the Ridge Road Hiking Trail and various other events.
Cst. Hoehn served three terms with the Musical Ride before being posted to the Yukon. This is his last year in Dawson, but the local detachment does have newly arrived Ride veteran in Cst. Dan Parlee, so we assume this popular program can continue for years to come.
by Dan Davidson
Tourists wait anxiously to cross the Yukon River.
Photo by Maureen Kafer
An Ohio couple who were still at least an hour away from getting across at 11:15, had originally lined up at 8:30 that morning. Their caravan leader had wisely staggered the departure times of his people so that there were only a few of them leaving each hour. The Airstreams all seemed to have lined up at about the same time.
At 11 am there were 71 RV units and other vehicles in the line, which stretched from the ferry landing past the Waterfront Building and the Bunkhouse for almost six blocks. People were walking the dyke, sunning themselves on rocks, sitting in their vehicles and generally making the best of a bad situation. It was, of course, difficult to do anything productive with their line time, since the whole group would hitch forward every 15 or 20 minutes as the ferry slowly ate into the crush.
The actual number of vehicles in the lineup at noon would have been closer to 100, since most of the Airstreams were towing small cars or trucks behind their RV units. The vast majority of the RV's were either of this type or trailer combinations, making for awkward loading and small numbers on each trip.
Denny Kobayashi, manger of the Klondike Visitor's Association, said that lineups like this one are what the government should be looking at when it studies ferry use here. He rejects totally the government's claim that 75% of the ferry usage here is by locals.
"If you study those lineups, you'll get a different story."
Kobayashi was glad that government leader John Ostashek was here yesterday to meet the local Yukon Party riding association.
"He got to see this for himself."
Kobayashi says that this time the complaint forms are piling up in the Visitor Reception Centre. He was told that people in yesterday's lineup were suggesting petitions to help the community solve its problem.
Another caravan is scheduled through here in the next few days, so this scene can expect to be repeated soon.
by Dan Davidson
Logo for Yukon Project -- Paddle to the sea
At this point they are some 12 days out of Whitehorse, travelling by kayak on the first leg of a fund-raising journey that will cover three months of their lives and land them in Alakanuk, Alaska, by August 24th, if all goes well.
The dream has been some time in the making for these two Charleston, North Carolina, women. Louise has been kayaking for nine years, but when she conceived this project about a year ago, she quickly realized that she would need a partner for the trip.
"I've always wanted to do a river trip from start to finish," she explains. "I began reading about the Yukon River...and I thought, 'It's a pipe dream, but is there a way I could combine kayaking with charity fund raising?'"
Why fund raising? For the last two years Louise has been a counselor with Happy Days and Special Times, The Loving Answer for Children With Cancer. This 14 year old organization assists kids with cancer in coping with their problems and provides hospital visits, holiday events, dream dates and events at Camp Happy Days.
"They give so much back to us," Louise says. "They often face insurmountable odds with what I call 'chutzpah', that boundless enthusiasm in facing the challenges of life."
So Louise set out to collect sponsorships by the mile (well, she's an American, after all) for her 2,000 mile trip. Gwylène, who was willing but knew nothing about kayaking, began a nine month training course, and tried to come with some special way to make a contribution to the project.
She is originally from France, and arrived in Charleston by way of Montreal, where she obtained a MFA in multimedia from Concordia University. While she is currently co-owner of Gaulart & Maliclet's French Café in Charleston (where you can buy a slice of "Yukon Cake" to support this trip), art projects are never far from her mind.
Before leaving Charleston, she met with 10 children from the area and asked them to give her their ideas about the north. On the trip she is trying to find things to record which match the ideas that the children gave her. She carries their laminated photographs and their descriptions with her to help her get into their frame of mind.
Along the journey, she hopes to collect the same kind of information--in reverse--from kids in the north. She will take their ideas about the South back home with her in late August, and then figure out how the two sets of material can be combined into one multi-cultural, multimedia product.
In addition, Gwylène is keeping her own record of the journey, in sketches, video tape, interviews and photographs, and will exhibit this material in Charleston when she returns there.
The intrepid pair had been hoping to meet with school classes while they were in Dawson, but our uniquely timed academic year meant that school had been out for over three weeks by the time they got here. Nevertheless, they are hoping that youngsters from Dawson and the rest of the Yukon will contact them later on and contribute some ideas or even some sketches to the end product.
They can be reached c/o Gwylène Gallimard, 68 Devereaux St., Charleston, SC 29403, USA.
And if you think that Charleston is a bit of stretch from Dawson City or Whitehorse, Louise and Gwylène were both surprised when they met a Dawsonite who recognized them from Gwylène's café, and remembered the Yukon Cake. It's a smaller world than you might think.
by Dan Davidson
A petition is circulating in Dawson to honour a first nations elder who has recently celebrated his 98th birthday and 75th wedding anniversary. Duncan Spriggs, owner of the Westminster Hotel, has organized the drive to rename the Yukon portion of the Dempster Highway after Joe Henry.
"A lot of people have talked about it over the last 10 or 15 years, that we thought it should be named after him. So we decided to stop talking and find out what it would take," said Spriggs a week after the Henry anniversary celebrations.
Spriggs says that there is a form to be filled out. Aside from the basic request, the form wants a detailed account of the reasons why the name should be changed and an indication of the level of support in the area.
To this end he has circulated a questionnaire throughout the community and is busy collecting the results for his application.
"So far they've been pretty much in favour," he says.
Why rename an already established highway at this point? Spriggs is firm in his reasons.
"He deserves the recognition. He was never considered in the original process. Natives weren't in the running when the original consideration was given (to the highway's name) in the sixties and seventies. Now the whole thing should be opened up to include them. It's just a matter of redressing the balance."
"He's lived there his whole life. He's incredibly important to the community--he's got 100 grandchildren. He opened up the trail. He led the cat train that opened the Dempster.
"I spent a night up there at 30 below--drove up there with him--spent the night in a wall tent. You've just got to be there with him to know that it's his country. It's absolutely spectacular. It's a great experience with this guy, driving up the highway and he's pointing everything out, where he used to stay and where things used to be. He's pointing at this group of trees. Wilderness to anybody else, but back yard to him."
The other part of the application requests that Sapper Hill, near Engineer Creek, be renamed Annie Henry Hill, in honour of Joe's wife.
"City council debated it and voted unanimously in favour of supporting it. The chief and council (of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in) are in favour. I'm waiting to hear officially from (Fort) McPherson, but they support the idea."
The wheels of the bureaucracy turn slowly, and Spriggs is hoping that both applications can be processed in time for Joe Henry's 100th birthday in 1998.
So far the only public dissent to the proposal has come from local businessman Fred Berger, who is totally in favour of doing something to honour the Henrys, but doesn't believe that its necessary to dishonour the RCMP's Dempster in order to accomplish it. Berger's suggestion is that Tombstone Campground should be renamed after Joe Henry instead.
contributed by the Dawson City Recreation Department
There's never been a Discovery Day Festival like this one. Dawson City is going all out to commemorate the "Year of Discovery".
It Was 100 years ago on August 17 that George Carmack, Skookum Jim and Dawson Charlie staked their historic claims that led to the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1898.
The Centennial of the 'Year of Discovery' is being marked with a gala 13-day festival from Aug. 13 to 25.
The Calendar of Events for this year's festival follows.
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