Dawson City, Yukon Friday, January 17, 2003

After more than a year of delays, the new recreation centre finally opened this month. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Dawson Arena Opens At Last
New Yukon Placer Authorizations to Be Phased In
Federal Decision to Kill Yukon Placer Industry
You're Attacking a Yukon Way of Life
Christmas in Primary Colours
Dawson's Computer Crash Remembered
Uffish Thoughts: The Story that Would Not Die
Klondike River Remains High But Not a Threat
Curator Departs
A Thumb Becomes a Nose
Wayne Curtis: A Self-Made Wordsmith Soldiers On

We're back! Welcome to the January 17, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 23 photographs and 21 articles that were in the 20 page January 14 hard copy edition.

The hard copy also contains Doug Urquhart's famous "Paws" cartoon strip, our homegrown crossword puzzle, the Fraser's Edge and obviously, all the other material you won't find here.

We encourage viewers of this website to consider subscribing to the Sun. It would help us financially and you would get to see everything closer to when it's actually news. About 2331 people read the last online issue of this paper (that's 45,400 hits since July 2000 and about 25,000 on the original counter before that - it began in March 1996), and we'd love to be sending out that many more papers. See our home page for subscription information.

An Appeal to Our Readers

A donation (we do give receipts) would help us to keep this website alive and also assist in the purchase of new equipment for our office. The address is on our home page. In case you hadn't noticed, we are a not-for-profit organization running on a shoestring with a part time employee and advertising revenue which has been hurt by the territory's sluggish economy.

Dawson Arena Opens At Last

by Dan Davidson

The markings for hockey hadn't been added yet; the bleachers were still being constructed; there were a few places where the ice was a little pocky.

None of that mattered on the evening of January 10 as the new Dawson arena opened to the public for the first time.

City of Dawson staff and councillors were all smiles as residents filled the spacious foyer for hot dogs, hot chocolate and cake.

"It's awesome to see," said a smiling councillor Joann Van Nostrand as she served up the cakes.

"The cakes originally said 'Worth the wait'", said Mayor Glen Everitt. "I thought that was arrogant, so I asked them to change it."

It has been a wait, just a bit more than double the one-year hockey and skating hiatus that council projected when this project was first announced back in April 1999. There was always supposed to be one season with only an outdoor rink. Instead there were two.

The work actually began a year later and would run into many difficulties before it got this far, difficulties caused by changes in government and disagreements among the city and its several contractors. There have been many problems with the natural ice arena and the foundation work on the entire building, problems which have yet to be resolved, either by the courts or my mediation.

The arena surface was ready for natural ice making in early December, which would have been right on par with most years in the old arena, but this year the unseasonably warm early winter held that up. Daytime temperatures were still hovering between + and - 5?C right up to New Years, and it has only been since then that a steady succession of -20 nights and days has enabled the ice making to be successful.

The close to 100 people who poured into the arena either to skate or to watch others skating weren't talking about delays and litigation on this night. They seemed happy just to be on the ice, indoors, at last.

"I didn't think so many people would show up," said councillor Byrun Shandler.

There's still a bit of work to be done, but it looks like old timers, juniors and ladies hockey will have a season this year after all.

(Ed Note: This article is an on-line extra. Our hard copy coverage of this event was about two paragraphs long, followed by four or five pictures. This was due to the fact that the opening happening on our primary layout night. This article was written for the Whitehorse Star and appeared there on January 13, but we felt it was a little too dated to put in a later issue of the Sun. It fits here, though.)

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New Yukon Placer Authorizations to Be Phased In

VANCOUVER - The Honourable Robert G. Thibault, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, announced today that the federal government will phase in changes to the way it regulates Yukon placer mining to better protect fish and fish habitat and to be more consistent with its treatment of other industries across Canada.

"Achieving consistency with other industries and with placer mining in other jurisdictions is crucial in terms of fairness and for the effective protection of the Yukon's fish and fish habitat," Mr. Thibault said.

The decision is the result of a mandatory review of the Yukon Placer Authorization (YPA), a class authorization under the Fisheries Act that has regulated placer gold mining in the Yukon since 1993.

Following the extensive consideration of recommendations resulting from the review, the Minister decided that the YPA should be phased out over a four-year period. During this transition period, existing placer mines will continue to operate under the YPA in 2003, to allow time to implement the required changes.

"I recognize the important contribution of placer gold mining to the Yukon," Mr. Thibault said. "In making my decision, I carefully considered input from a broad range of interested parties.

"I reviewed recommendations from the Yukon Placer Committee, which includes First Nations, the placer mining industry, government, and fishery and environmental groups. I also considered comments from other interests, as well as scientific and policy advice from my Department. I would like to thank all those who provided me with valuable recommendations."

Once the YPA is phased out, placer mines will be reviewed on a site-specific basis to determine potential habitat impacts. If damage to habitat cannot be avoided, a mine will require an individual Fisheries Act authorization. Other development proposals from a wide range of industries across Canada are reviewed in this manner under the habitat protection provisions of the Fisheries Act.

The Minister's decision was based on the fact that the standards in the YPA are inconsistent with current scientific advice and with environmental standards in other jurisdictions and other industries.

"Current science was an important consideration," the Minister said. "Since the authorization was signed in 1993, there is a greater understanding of the impact of sediment on fish and habitat, and of the habitat needs of fish in the Yukon."

Under the Fisheries Act, any harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat requires an authorization from the Minister. The YPA operates as a class authorization for Yukon placer mining.

The YPA specifies the classification of streams, the allowable sediment discharges under which the placer mining industry can operate, and plans for inspecting and monitoring. It also provides for the temporary deferment of water quality standards on streams. When the YPA was signed, the Yukon Placer Committee was established to implement the authorization.

Although existing mines will continue to operate under the YPA in 2003, no new applications to defer water quality standards will be considered.

As with other industries, DFO will develop guidelines to help placer miners comply with the Fisheries Act. These guidelines, to be developed in 2003, will include operating practices and environmental standards that are more consistent with other jurisdictions and that are based on current scientific knowledge.

After these guidelines and standards are developed, the Department will begin phasing in site-specific reviews. The Department will streamline the review process to reduce the burden on small mining operations. For example, where practical, reviews will be grouped together through watershed-based environmental assessments.

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Federal Decision to Kill Yukon Placer Industry

(Monday, December 16, 2002) The Klondike Placer Miners' Association (KPMA) is shocked with the announcement by the Minister of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Robert Thibault, that he has decided to ignore the recommendations of his own Yukon Placer Committee and to phase out the Yukon Placer Authorization (YPA), and effectively the industry, over a 4 year period.

Tara Christie, President of the KPMA said, "The announced changes will have a devastating impact on the placer industry, the family farm of the north. They will result in large capital losses for placer miners and service and supply businesses and mean a substantial drop in jobs available to Yukoners". The placer industry is one of the oldest and the second largest industry in the Yukon.

The Yukon Placer Committee has been working together in various forms for almost 20 years. Tara Christie went on to say, " The Yukon Placer Authorization has been a successful, made in the Yukon management solution that protects fish and fish habitat while allowing placer mining to continue". The changes proposed by the committee would have provided a long-term commitment to improve the process and ensure continued environmental protection".

For the review, the committee had representatives from DIAND, DFO, YTG, Council for Yukon First Nations, (CYFN), the Fish and Wildlife Management Board/ Yukon Salmon Committee, Environment Canada and KPMA. They all agreed to support the recommendations to the Minister. The Yukon Government (current and former) and a large percentage of Yukoners showed their support for the YPA and the industry.

"This result is particularly disturbing as DFO officials played a significant leadership role in the review process leading up to the consensus views represented in the Committees' report", Tara Christie said. "DFO scientists also provided information to the committee". "For this to happen after an exhaustive review, and after extensive public consultation, is of great concern because it violates due process. At this point, there is no certainty for the industry."

The proposed changes are a huge divergence from the environmental management regime that the YPA provides. The KPMA will have to review the announcement and get more details, in order to understand the full implications for the industry.

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You're Attacking a Yukon Way of Life

by Stuart Schmidt

The writer is a Dawson City resident. An open letter to Sue Moody and the membership of the Yukon Conservation Society:

On Dec. 31, a letter from Sue Moody was printed in the Whitehorse Star. I ask Sue and the other members of the society to please consider my response with an open mind.

Sue says the ministers decision "is not unfair"... and "we will simply have to comply with the Fisheries Act and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), like every other activity in the country."

The decision is unfair for many reasons. One reason is that it was made after a lengthy review by all members of the Yukon Placer Committee.

The fact that the Yukon Conservation Society chose not to participate in the final stages of the review was one of the first unfair things about it.

The whole review took over two years and cost the Klondike Placer Miners Association (KPMA) as well as the federal and territorial governments a lot of money. It also took much time of the KPMA executive and other members. These people donate their time, and this time they donate is time they do not have at their disposal to earn a living.

After a lengthy process of negotiation, in which Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) staff participated and achieved consensus with the rest of the Yukon Placer Committee members, they then change their minds and say no. That is unfair. That is dishonest.

It's also unfair because most other industries get their own regulations under the Fisheries Act. We didn't even rate our own regulations; we had an authorization and now that is thrown out.

It is also unfair because hundreds of other industries do have licences to pollute and are not held to the same standards as the placer miners will be held. It is simply not true that every one around the country has the same standards. All you have to do is go right across the border into Atlin in B.C. and you will find that the water quality requirements are far less stringent.

It is also unfair because hundreds of us miners have our life savings, in fact all of our equity, not just savings, invested in our business. We invested in this business with the understanding that there were certain rules and standards that we would operate under. We made our investments based on this. This change makes our equity and investments worthless.

Sue says the recommendations to the minister were "not consensus". All parties that participated in the process agreed. That is consensus.

Sue says the minister "could not follow the recommendations... because they were in conflict with the Fisheries Act."

That is not true. Them was no substantive change to the Yukon Placer Authorization and it had been working under the Fisheries Act for years.

There are many examples all across the country of industries being licensed to pollute under the Fisheries Act. Big industries with lots of lobby power.

Many of these examples involve toxic substances. The placer industry does not use toxic substances and the sediment we do add to the water is naturally occurring in various concentrations.

The Yukon-Placer Authorization was a legal authorization under the Fisheries Act. It was also designed to ensure that the requirements of EARP and the CEAA were mitigated.

Sue says "the Yukon Placer Authorization does not protect fish habitat... but allows harmful alteration, disruption or destruction of fish habitat."

The fact is that the Yukon Placer Authorization is an authorization to control the destruction... etc .... It protects fish habitat while allowing the partial destruction and reclamation of the habitat.

In many circumstances, after reclamation, the habitat is better than original. That's why, in the late 1980s, the Seakim study found that the salmon fry in the mined areas of Vancouver Creek were more plentiful, larger and in better shape than the salmon fry in the non-mined control streams.

That's why DFO won't let people fill in the dredge ponds in the Klondike Valley; it's such good fish habitat. That's why I have been told by a DFO engineer that the ponds we left in the Indian River Valley look like ponds that are designed for habitat enhancement, and they are full of fish too.

So Sue, when you say it does not protect fish, that just isn't true. The whole point of it is to protect fish and fish habitat.

Sue, you say that "the complexity of the application process for miners is not likely to increase... stricter regulations will not be the death of the placer industry... some of the richest gold deposits are not in the stream but up the banks... the decision is based on the same science presented by DFO during the review process...."

Let's look at what this will do to the industry. Year one, the year where nothing changes. There will still be changes. There will be no new people coming to the Yukon to go placer mining. Miners who already have opportunities elsewhere will not return and/or miners who were about to reinvest in a new mine site will not return.

I know of one New Zealand miner who is going back to New Zealand to mine. He says the regulations are easier to live with in New Zealand than here. In fact he has-already gone. He will be back here next year to sell equipment, if anyone wants to buy it.

The uncertainty factor is, tremendous in all of this. You want to kill an industry, tell them you will change the rules but you don't know how.

Year two, no one knows what will happen nor how this phase-in period will work. Eliminate all the people in narrow valleys that cannot recycle completely, say, 40 per cent of the industry.

What about the people who need to divert the creek to mine, sometimes from one side of the valley to the other in one season? Will they be able to do this?

Sue, you say the gold is away from the creek up the banks. The fact is, in some cases this is true, but, gold is valuable because it is a scarce commodity. It is a scarce commodity because it is hard to find,

So, if you are fortunate and have gold in the banks, away from the stream, that's great But what about the scarce and valuable resources that are close to the stream? This will eliminate over 75 per cent of our gold resource. So for a few years, people mine out the ground that is away from the streams and that's the end of our industry.

We will see a steady decline each year of the phase-in period and a steady decrease of what is left after phase-in as he small amount of resources that are distant from streams are worked out.

Now as far as your "no new science" argument, well. if it's the same science and the Yukon Placer Authorization was based on that science, aren't you arguing against yourself?

I thought it was the same science because I saw it that same science used when the Yukon Placer Authorization was initially drafted.

Yes, it's been understood for years and that's why the Yukon Placer Authorization limits the amount of sediment miners can add to the water and it limits it in a sensible fashion. I don't understand the point you are making about no new science, but no worries, I agree; there is no new science.

Sue, you say, "We believe that the minister's decision will give rise to a placer industry we can all be proud of."

I am proud of our placer industry. We have changed from no regulations 25 years ago to a highly regulated industry. We have participated in creating the regulations. We control our sediment discharges, we reclaim the streams and we reclaim the land.

I am not proud of every single operation but I am proud of our industry as a whole. We are powerful contributors to the Yukon economy and Yukon society. We are improving and shall continue to improve, and I do not want to see you and the DFO destroy us.

It is so easy for someone who does not mine for gold to say, "You can do this or you can do that or this will be easy." Sorry, but you are wrong.

Sue and YCS members: I believe you are making a grave error. Reconsider before it's too late.

If you succeed, you will be remembered as the people who helped kill the placer industry. You will have taken away the livelihood of many and not benefited the environment.

We are all environmentalists and should be, but when people become too extreme, they damage their own cause. I believe you are in danger of doing that very thing. Members of the YCS: ask your directors to reconsider your position.

Sue, at the beginning of your letter, you said, "The discussion in the media has been characterized as outsiders versus Yukoners, and environmentalist versus miners."

The famous line of investigative reporters is, ''Follow the money." If you follow the money, and I have the YCS financial statements to help me follow it, the money takes you way down south. Way south of the Yukon.

That's where your money comes from. That's what pays the wages.

Membership money (and donations?) was $3,209 in 2001. Total revenue (for the YCS) was over $800,000.

True, some of that money comes from our Yukon government, but most comes from the south. And when people characterize you as outsiders versus Yukoners, that's where that comes from.

Money does buy influence. It may be hard to quantify but there it is.

I am not saying you are a bad person or bad people. I am not saying that you don't care about the economy of the Yukon, or that you don't care about the rest of us Yukoners.

But that's where the idea that this is southern money buying a southern agenda comes from, and you have to deal with it.

What the Yukon Conservation Society is advocating is a direct attack on a way of life for many people. It is an attack on me and my family, my employees and their families, and on all the people who are part of the support industry try for placer gold mining. ~

Well, that's it, folks. You got a genuine placer gold miner begging you to reconsider your position on this one.

You can dig up some big-time good will and gratitude from the mining community, and we can work together to make the Yukon better.

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Christmas in Primary Colours

From the RSS Sourdough


Students from Kindergarten to Grade 3 crowd the stage for the finale. Photo by Dan Davidson

A Primary Christmas concert, featuring students from Kindergarten to Grade 3, was held on Thursday, December 19, 2002 in the school gymnasium.

Performances were as follows:

Grade 3: Holiday Lights (a song)
Grade 1: A Snowman for Mr. McKay (a play)
Kindergarten AM: Jingle Bells ( a song)
Grade 2: The Great Toy Robbery (a skit)
Kindergarten PM: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (a song)
Grade 3: Skateboardin' Santa (a song)
Finale, K-3): We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

Thank you to those high school students who helped: Heather and Danielle Mayes, Natasha Burian and Randi Procee were elves; Monica Nordling was the Mistress of Ceremonies; Bradley Gauthier ran the lights;; Nathan Schultz ran the sound board.

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Dawson's Computer Crash Remembered

by Dan Davidson


This computer room was the scene of last year's financial records disaster at Dawson's town offices. Photo by Dan Davidson

On December 10, 2002, the staff at Dawson's town offices had a nasty surprise when they checked the back-up drive for the main computer server. The digital tape that should have made a copy of the hard drive's state from the previous day was jammed and chewed by the recorder. No back-up had been made.

Not long after that city manager Scott Coulson received a call from Polarcom in Whitehorse. The automatic activity monitor that this computer company maintains on the town's system had registered an error during the backup procedure.

Any sort of computer malfunction is annoying at best, but this one was trivial. No data was lost. To all appearances a well-used $50 digital tape had simply reached the end of its lifespan and malfunctioned. If it had created a problem for the source hard-drive, that one would have shut down and the town's secondary hard drive would have taken over the work for the day.

In short, the situation was a far cry from the one the town had found itself in just over a year earlier, when staff returned from the Christmas break in late December 2001 to discover that the system had overheated and destroyed itself while no one was in the building.

Nobody knows quite when the problem began. The system in use at the time was aging and Coulson had already drafted a proposal to replace it in the new year. The small room which contained the server was not well ventilated then, and when the circulation fan in the room stopped working the temperature began to rise.

It is well known that computer storage media tend to be susceptible to magnetic fields and extremes of temperature. The resulting damage to the hard drive wasn't a big surprise, even though it was unpleasant.

There was worse in store. The digital tape backup system, which had been assumed to be in proper working order, turned out to have failed even earlier in the season, probably late in October. No one had noticed, since there were no obvious indications.

There were no computer records for anything past the end of October, and the end of that month was also the last time that a full trial balance print-out had been made and filed as part of council records.

According to Coulson one for the first questions that had to be answered was "when did this happen?", the reason being that the town was in the process of switching insurance companies at the time and it needed to be clear who was going to be handling the claim. That settled, it took several weeks to assess the amount of loss, replace the computer, get some back-up systems in place and figure out a schedule for reentry of the spreadsheet and report data from the original invoices and daily journal entries.

In addition, there had to be an attempt made to recover data from the hard drive. Polarcom was recommended as the firm to give this a try, and were unsuccessful. They shipped the equipment to an even more experienced firm in Vancouver, which came back with the same report.

Coulson isn't sure if the words "melted" and "fried" are actual physical descriptions of the drive, or just the metaphorical techno-jargon that computer geeks love to use, but the result was the same; the heat had destroyed the integrity of the storage medium. The experts indicated that there was no hope of recovering anything from the drive.

While the recovery was under way, a process that would take treasurer Dale Courtice a total of four month's work spread over about six months (for which his wages were covered by the insurance company) business continued.

"Oh yeah," Coulson said. "Meantime, we had to try and live, have people coming in asking for tax reports, all the simple things that, BOOM!, are no longer there."

The council had only recently decided to break the annual utility invoices up into quarterly payments to ease the cash flow burden on both itself and its ratepayers. The first of those billings was just about due when the reconstruction work began.

"It took up everybody's time," Coulson said. The eventual insurance claim, including new equipment and salaries for time spent on the recovery, was $40,000, a hefty sum, but one which was paid without comment by the company once all the work had been done and checked over.

Well, actually, there was a comment. Coulson said that Dale Courtice was singled out for praise over the quality of his work.

"Everybody was involved. I spent about 10% of my time doing some of Dale's work while he was doing this."

Like every other town, Dawson has to prepare an annual report for the territorial government, and also get ready for an annual audit, the results of which are published each year in the local paper, the Klondike Sun. It was clear that all of these were going to be late.

Coulson says that contacts with the Liberal government of the day were cordial. A supervisor, Ken Hodgins, had been looking over the council's shoulder from time to time since the previous January, so the state of the town's finances and records prior to the computer crash were both well known to officials.

The usual late spring deadline for reporting was extended to the end of September without any concern being expressed.

"It would have been a concern if it had been going to cost the city a lot of money - but it didn't," Coulson said. "It was covered. It was an accident, not something that we did on purpose."

By late January 2002 the letters had already gone to the appropriate authorities and the situation had been discussed in the biweekly publicly broadcast council meetings, as it would be from time to time throughout the winter and spring.

"There was never a concern of passing that date. All through that process we told everybody what was going on and what we were doing."

Coulson was probably more shocked than anyone when rumours began circulating that the town had engineered the whole thing and had "cooked its books" on purpose. He remains offended by the accusations, which were first made public in the summer, and then led to an attempt to mount a petition maintaining that the town was trying to hide something, that there was covert over-spending, and that mysterious and troubling things were going on at the town offices.

Not at all, he says. It's just nonsense.

These days the computer room is ventilated by fan and also has louvres in the door. The server is a mirrored system with two drives, a daily tape back-up, with tapes spread over two weeks, and the backups stored off site every night. All of this came at no cost to the town.

Staff check the system every morning now, as well as getting a status report from Polarcom if anything odd turns up in the system activity report.

The necessary reports went into the YTG at the end of September, 2002, and the complete BDO Dunwoody audit was published in a five page section in the October 8, 2002 Sun.

In spite of that Coulson said he would be quite happy to submit the town's books to another audit, as long as the cost of it didn't come out of his budget.

"If it didn't cost $20,000 I'd have another auditor in here tomorrow," he said. "If it would lay it all to rest, I love that. I'd say, 'Bring it on.'"

In his previous position Coulson was used to dealing with the Auditor General in British Columbia. He has no doubt that a new audit would turn out the same as the one already done - but he would want someone else to pay for it.

Aside from that the doors are open.

"If anybody has a question about anything," Coulson said, "I wish they'd come and ask me instead of just speculating and feeding the rumours. I'll happily show them anything that isn't confidential."

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Uffish Thoughts: The Story that Would Not Die

by Dan Davidson

There are stories that simply demand to be written, no matter how pointless the narrative may be, or how little news they may contain. Such a tale is the story of the Great Dawson Computer Melt-down, which will appear in the Star sometime this week. What won't be in that story is this narrative, which is the tale of how I came to write it in spite of myself.

Just over a year ago, as the tale goes, city office staff in Dawson arrived at work to find that the central computer was dead, overheated in its closet, done in by a faulty circulation fan.

The full story of what happened after that is too long to put in this column. The short version is that the computer had to be replaced and the computerized version of the financial records for the fall of 2001 had to be reconstructed from the original documents and journals. As a consequence, the town was late with its annual financial report to the YTG, and also with its annual audit, but the government extended the deadlines without any fuss and the insurance company covered all the costs involved, so no harm was done.

I first became aware of this situation at a town council meeting sometime in January 2002. The meeting was televised on the community cable channel, and people do watch these broadcasts, so I assume that many other people learned about it when I did. I didn't see it as a major story. My records indicate that I filed 20 items from here during the month of January, and that I was mostly concerned with ice bridges, centennial celebrations, medals, the revival of the Gold Show and other topics which seemed more pressing.

By the early part of July the number of stories had moved up to 186, and included a great many things, among them the success of the revived Gold Show and a number of conferences, all of which seemed to be of more import than the rebuilding of the town's computer records. Not that it was a dead item, but it was progressing and there were periodic updates on its progress at council. If it had been going badly that might have been another matter, but that didn't seem to be the case.

There was an ongoing series of debates in the legislature about Dawson's finances, but these mostly seemed to concern the role of a supervisor under the Municipal Act, and varying interpretations of the government's responsibilities to Dawson under that act. The questions and the answers appeared to cancel each other out.

In July, however, the other Whitehorse paper published an article which began with a wonderful hook, a phrase in which it was jokingly asserted that Dawson had "cooked its books". I assumed the reporter was being playful, but many people did not, and the temperature of the coffee shop chatter went up several degrees during the remainder of the summer.

Somewhere in there, a few people began to get confused. They recalled that there had been a legal raid on the town offices the year before and that computer records had been seized and searched. Though that raid had been on January 30, 2001, almost 11 months before the computer crash, and was about our sewer and water system, the notion that there was a connection was appealing to some, so much so that there was a detailed letter exploring the connection in the territorial papers during the fall election.

The letter included a bit of a swipe at me for not having reported on this financial "scandal" back when it broke in July and more than a hint that there must be some sort of special relationship between the local newspaper (which I edit) and the town that allowed such things to be hidden. If memory serves that letter appeared about a week before we printed the five pages of the City of Dawson's annual audit. If it had been sent to us as well, it would probably have appeared in the same issue, but we did not receive a copy.

By that time I was fairly sure that I was eventually going to have to write a story about the computer failure and the reconstruction of the city's books. It had never really been a story. It was never a secret. No one in authority, from the government of the day, to the auditors, to the insurance company which paid out the claim, had ever questioned the version of events provided from January through July by the staff and the town council, but those rumours would not go away.

I sat down with the town manager early in December and taped a long interview full of dates and times and details. Then I decided I would wait until the actual anniversary of the event to file a story on it, thus having giving myself some actual justification for writing it. So, after a final tally of 325 items written in 2002, the very first one of 2003 was a piece I called "Dawson's Computer Crash Remembered".

And the second item out of my word processor for this year is this one. Having now given this event more column inches than it would ever have deserved without the help of the rumour factory, I hope to leave it behind at last.

I hope ... but, y'know, somehow I really doubt it.

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Klondike River Remains High But Not a Threat

by Dan Davidson


This is a screen capture shot of the graph from the Environment Canada website slowing the rise and fall of the water levels in the Klondike River.

While the December concerns over the rising levels of the Klondike River seem to have subsided along the water, local EMO coordinator John Mitchell says the situation still needs to be monitored and could still be a problem in the spring.

In early December levels at the automated station beside the river were reading .5 metres and had been for several days, a level which Mitchell says seems normal for the season.

The graph from the Environment Canada website shows a break in the line over the next four days, which seems to indicate the machinery wasn't working. When it reappeared around Dec. 10, the graph had shot up to about 3.25 metres and it would edge higher than that over the next several days, leveling off and peaking at 3.4 on Dec. 19.

From that date it dropped to as low as 2.8 on Dec. 22 before leveling off at around 2.9. On Christmas and Boxing Day the levels shot back up to 3.2, subsided to 2.8 by Dec. 27 and have fluctuated since then. On January 7 it sat at 2.896, which is some 2.2 metres above normal seasonal levels.

Mitchell surveyed the river by air on January 6 along with local DIAND personnel and people from Water Resources.

"The 'jam of interest' extends from the vicinity of the TNTA chopper pad (near the mouth of the Klondike River) upriver approximately 1.5 to 2 miles."

This puts it between the Northern Superior complex and the Fireweed Helicopter base.

"Ice thicknesses on the upper sections of the river look relatively thin at this time with lots of open water and overflow."

Mitchell says it appears that the river has frozen to the bottom in some sections and the water is flowing over the ice.

This is bad news for potential spring breakup problems. The ice generally breaks up when rising river levels lift and fracture it. Ice sitting on the bottom of the river has to rot away without being fractured.

"There are several locations that have potential for jamming between the bridge and Rock Creek (as usual)."

Mitchell reports that further hydraulic analysis will be conducted within the next two weeks by the Water Resources Hydrology department.

In the meantime, even though common sense ought to suggest this to anyone looking at it, he recommends that this part of the river is "really is not a recommended skidooing area."

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Curator Departs

From Dawson Museum Newsletter Dec. 2002


Departing Curator Paul Thistle holds up his parting gift. Photo submitted

The current Dawson City Museum & Historical Society Director/Curator Paul Thistle has announced that he will be leaving his position held for more than three and one half years at the end of December to take on a new job in the United States.

He has accepted the position of Curator of Exhibits at the Logan Museum of Anthropology at Beloit College in Beloit, Wisconsin, not far from Chicago.

The Museum has been operating since 1893. The Beloit College to which it is attached is numbered among the top 50 four-year colleges in the country and attracts liberal arts students from all over the United States, Canada and around the world.

The Logan Museum of Anthropology possesses archaeological and ethnographic materials from the entire globe including a fine collection from New Guinea and a particular strength in its holdings of Native American materials that will be Paul's primary focus.

Paul was attracted to this position as Curator of exhibits because it has been his ultimate goal to get back to his first love in the museum field - direct hands-on work with Native artifacts. He was excited too, by the opportunity of returning to teaching in the College's museology programme. There is also the potential for him to teach Anthropology and Native American Studies courses.

Paul indicated to the Museum Board that he departs the Dawson City Museum with highly mixed emotions. "I had no great desire to leave the Museum in Dawson, or Canada for that matter, and I have much more on my Agenda here both internally here with the Museum and territorially with YHMA, that I wanted to accomplish, but this is the kind of job that I have been building my academic life toward and dreaming of for many years. I could not pass up this wonderful opportunity to pursue my aspirations to work hands-on with a very fine Native collection again, particularly in an academic context where I will have the opportunity to develop exhibits, teach, research, and write in my areas of scholarly interest."

Those interested in learning more about the Logan Museum of Anthropology can check it out at http://www.beloit.edu/museums/logan/index.html

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A Thumb Becomes a Nose

by Palma Berger


Elisabeth Belliveau stands in front of the ducks and doves and fish and gloves of her creativity. Photo by Palma Berger

A button hole becomes the eye. One finger of a glove is the long ear of a floppy dog. The length of the long evening gloves becomes the long neck of a swan. The duck is really leather gloves twisted and turned into a shape. In other pieces, fingers of gloves were layered to form the tail plumage on birds.

It is amazing what Elisabeth Belliveau has done with her twisting and turnings and shapings of mainly old gloves

A few other discards were also used. The grey elephant looks like he was once a pair of old pants. The whale was once an old hot water bottle. The pair of rabbits are two colourful shirts. A pair of old boxing gloves are arranged to become Eyore, the donkey of Pooh Bear fame.

Belliveau has frequented thrift shops, garage sales, and other venues to find the discarded items that have become the source of her creativity. The result of which is her show, "ever since last November", at the Odd Gallery.

The visitors on opening night were constantly delighted as they found a new form, an unexpected shape, different textures in so many animals made from old familiar things. "Whimsical", "creative", "witty", "such a delight" were some of the descriptions heard in the gallery. All were so appealing, whether it was from the softness of the fabrics used, or the graceful shapes, or the lack of any offending sharp edges. Of course there was laughter too, as the most unexpected creature was recognized in his glass case. Most of the creatures were in glass cases, but one wall had the creatures placed directly onto a painted section of the wall. Here they did not seem as confined as the ones behind glass, although the glass fronted cases suited the display of many.

These sculptures are as Belliveau described them, "soft sculptures". She states she "manipulates them into animal shapes and characters in an origami like process." They are folded so similar to the way the origami paper is folded. Only in one display was there a minimum of stitching together done. The colours were mainly "leather' colours. One exception was the two frogs. A dark green upper glove over a paler glove underneath, becomes the tropical frogs.

Belliveau is a graduate of Alberta College of Art and Design with a degree in Fine Arts. Here she majored in sculpture.

"These works show transformation and an activation of inanimate objects in an attempt to communicate ideas. I am interested in how used clothing and found objects can communicate human qualities and provide histories of human use as sources of sentiment, function or identity . Likewise I am interested in how animal representations can communicate characteristics and emotional qualities that relate to people. Animals reflect many characters and personalities that we identify with and they are often used to explore human relationships in ways that are as familiar to us as fairy tales and cartoons.

My practice involves animating cultural refuse, recycling/salvaging items that have yet some potential, and finding new ways to look at familiar things."

She has certainly done that. One recognizes fabric gloves such as great-grandmother wore. The pearls on another creature are part of white gloves of another era. Though the gloves are no longer in use they have been transformed into something we still can recognize.

Elisabeth Belliveau came to Dawson last year to visit her friend Candice Tarnowski, who was then artist-in-residence here. She loved it enough to apply for the artist-in-residence programme herself and was accepted. Her term there will be from March through to the end of May. In the meantime she has found other accommodation so she can stay here until the residence opens up.

Her show runs until February 10th. It is thoroughly enjoyable. Don't miss it.

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Wayne Curtis: A Self-Made Wordsmith Soldiers On

by Dan Davidson


Wayne Curtis enjoyed the ambience of Berton House. Photo by Dan Davidson

Wayne Curtis had been wanting to come to Berton House since it opened in 1996, and was overjoyed to finally make it here in the fall of 2002. The experience was everything that he hoped it would be.

"I was welcomed in this city here with open arms. I've been around the world quite a lot but I've never met warmer people or prettier scenery than there is here.

"I've never walked around a town where everybody spoke to me that I met. I don't do that in Fredericton."

In some ways he finds it similar to the Miramachi area of New Brunswick where he grew up, a place which he says is open and easy to live in. Now in his late fifties, Curtis still returns there in the summers to live in the cabin near the village of Blackville that he inherited from his father, and work part-time as a fishing guide and outfitter.

While northern New Brunswick has an older history than Dawson City, and Curtis once owned an farmhouse that would predate just about anything in Dawson, he said he found himself aware of the past here in a way that was unlike anything in his experience.

"I can just walk around this town and look at the old buildings. I can let my mind go back 100 years and I can hear the tinkling of pianos. I can feel the stuff I read by Pierre Berton and others and I wasn't disappointed at all."

The Berton House experience was also good for him. In the couple of months that he was able to stay he produced what he hopes is a saleable literary essay about the Klondike, crafted what he thinks is a good short story, and worked on the third draft of a novel. The big work is ready to go out to a few selected readers whose reaction will let him know if he has finished.

Called Brothers and Sisters in its working title, the story involves a pair of orphans who leave the Maritimes and head for Ontario, where their lives play out in both positive and negative ways. It's a familiar tale for people from the Atlantic provinces, and one which Curtis himself lived out in his late teens.

He grew up on a farm in the late 1940s and 1950s, worked hard, learned to play the fiddle and was a bit of a child prodigy at local dances for a few years. When he was in grade nine, however, he quit school to help out at home. He has struggled since to complete his high school education and is close to the end of a degree in English at university, but it meant a lot of night school, and when he met the grade 9 and 12 English classes at Robert Service School he advised against taking his route to academic success.

Fortunately he met Mrs. Jardine before he dropped out of school. He had her as a teacher in grades 6 through 8, and her love of books and reading influenced him forever. So caught up was he that he wrote little stories on the backs of old seed calendar pages, there being a lack of writing paper around the farm.

"It was a bit like Robert Service writing on rolls of wallpaper. There were calendars everywhere around the house. I would write on the backs of the pages and then hang them back up. My mother would go around the house turning them over and reading them."

At age 18 he was off to Ontario to work in the fields and factories, remaining there until he was 26, when, a lot like a character in one of his short stories, he came back home. He worked in and eventually managed a local furniture store in Newcastle (now part of Miramachi City) and spent a lot of time fishing. When the urge to write came upon him again he followed the advice in many a writers' manual and wrote about what he knew, becoming a regular columnist in fishing magazines and amassing enough material to promote a couple of books of fishing stories.

It wasn't enough, and there are times, when people still refer to him as "that guy that writes about fishing", that he wishes he'd never written any of that material, but it was a start. He wrote a regional history book which sold well. He moved on to short fiction, much of it on rural Maritime themes, and eventually to a novel, One Indian Summer, about a man coming to terms with his past and his identity.

Writing isn't always easy. A second novel, Last Stand, required some 40 rewrites over a period of five years.

"Sometimes," he says, "writing is not a gift; it's a curse."

Hoping to escape his reputation as a strictly regional writer, Curtis travelled about and produced a book of stories set in various places around the world. He obtained a three month writers residency in Cuba and wrote Night Train to Havana, as well as a number of essays and short stories.

Ironically, just as he was working to expand his repertoire, Alistair McLeod hit it big with his novel No Great Mischief and a collected edition of his short stories, Island, both of which were the kind of determinedly regional writing that Curtis' editors had advised him to get beyond.

He's hoping the trend lasts. In the meantime he's writing about 40 weeks of the year and guiding for 12.

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