Dawson City, Yukon Friday, March 14, 2003

The second group of Trek Over the Toppers heads up King Street to the Midnight Dome on their second day in Dawson. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Trekkers All Over Dawson
Black Wednesday Gathers Momentum
KVA Had a Rough Year - Expects Worse
Funding Remains a Key Issue in Youth Justice Initiatives
Zacharias Kunuk: Modern Media Preserves Old Stories
Felt Making
Thornhill Arrives at Berton House

Welcome to the March 14, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 11 photographs and 21 articles that were in the 20 page March 11 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.

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Trekkers All Over Dawson

by Dan Davidson

Participants in this year's Trek Over the Top have been enjoying the return of the relatively milder winter weather which moved in upon the departing heels of the Quest dogs.

Organizers Erik Zalitas and Laurie McCrory indicate that the first three trips between Tok and Dawson City (one Destination Tok run and two Destination Dawson runs) seem to have recovered from last year's 10% decline. Two of the Dawson runs this year have between 200 and 250 participants and the third, the middle trip, has about 150.

On Friday morning the trekkers lined up at 11 o'clock to follow Zalitas up the Mary McLeod Road to the Dome Road and the top of the Midnight Dome.

Some people do this trip more than once a year. A pair of trekkers popped into Hair Cabaret on Friday at noon to book appointments for the next week's trip.

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Black Wednesday Gathers Momentum

by Dan Davidson


Signs like these are springing up all over Dawson as part of a KPMA plan to raise money for its lobby efforts. Photo by Dan Davidson

Black Wednesday is a go. Most of the talk at the March meeting of the Dawson City Chamber of Commerce focused on the chamber's proposal to shut down the commercial sector for all or part of a shopping day on March 12.

Chamber president Jorn Meier reported that the "vast majority" of the businesses in the area are willing to close their doors for some part of the day and hang signs indicating that those closed doors could become a common sight if the Department of Fisheries has its way with placer miners in the region.

As chamber manager Lindsay Jordan summed it up, March 12 could be a busy day. More than just a "general strike" it promises to be one of demonstrations, speeches and community action.

At 10 am businesses have been asked to close their doors and hang the signs that will be supplied.

At 10:30 there will be a community meeting at the Tribute to the Miner statue on Front Street, right next to the big billboard listing the possible impact of a placer mining shut down. There will be speeches from various chamber members and from Larry Bagnell, the Yukon's MP, in support of mining.

From 11 until there will be a planned march through the town with placards waving in what everyone hopes will be the morning sunshine. The marchers will include various government offices on their route.

Following that there will be a "soup kitchen"/ concession on Front Street run by the Fire Department, any proceeds to go to the lobby effort against DFO.

Other signs have already begun to go up on businesses around the town. Sold to businesses by the Klondike Placer Miners Association at $200 each the signs proclaim that "This Business Supports Placer Mining. Placer Mining Supports this Business." Smaller signs have been produced for families to buy at a lower price and place on their homes.

Meier reported that the media interest in the Black Wednesday campaign has been quite intense, especially from radio stations.

Not all businesses in the town are able to close for the full time period to support the campaign, Some will close for the speeches and the march. Others have indicated that their margins are too thin at this time of year to be able to afford to close at all. There was some intense discussion of this issue at the meeting, but the official position of the chamber is that no one should be bullied or harassed into taking this action. Businesses are welcome to support the protest to the extent that they feel they are able to do so.

"I heard rumours about people being threatened if they were not participating." Meier told the group. "I phoned that person who was supposed to have been threatened, which turned out to have been completely false.

"To my knowledge it's been very nice and everyone has been supportive."

Citizens are being encouraged not to shop anywhere during those hours on Wednesday, but no businesses will be singled out as boycott targets.

Some enthusiastic chamber members wanted to mount a campaign of refusing service to anyone connected with the Department of Fisheries, but others argued that this would be way too negative as well as probably illegal.

Outside of Dawson Lindsay Jordan reported that the Yukon Chamber of Commerce has picked up the issue and is organizing a territorial Black Ribbon campaign to focus awareness on the issue.

In the lead-up to the day of protest chamber volunteers are going to be busy making placards and displays for the event.

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KVA Had a Rough Year - Expects Worse

by Dan Davidson


The slot machines at Diamond Tooth Gerties are the real revenue generator for the KVA. Some of them are wearing out, and they're expensive to replace. While revenue from the slots was up by over $25,000 last year, the overall performance of the hall was down by $34,000. It still took in over half a million, but only just. Photo by Dan Davidson

The Klondike Visitors Association had a tough year in 2002, and isn't expecting things improve in the year ahead. Last year this time the KVA expected that it would see revenue of over $2.8 million with a profit line of $67,588.28. But, as outgoing chair Tim Coonen said at this year's annual general meeting, no one really had any idea what was going to happen to the tourist season at this point in the year.

The financial report presented on February 25 to the 27 members who made it out to the meeting shows that last year's forecast was optimistic. Revenue was down about $100 thousand and profits declined to $57,368.00.

This coming year looks to be worse. The possibility of a war in Iraq, the certainty of rising fuel prices and the continuing fear of terrorism all stand to have a negative impact on an already shaky situation. The proposed operating budget for 2003 projects a fairly modest recovery in revenue, but sees a need for a considerable increase in expenses. The budget projects a loss of $9,550.00 by the end of the year, necessitating a dip into the KVA's investments.

This is not a final budget, not was it ratified by the AGM as has been the practice in the past. This year the membership has simply discussed the budget, leaving its final shape to the new board elected on the night of the AGM.

Coonen attempted to put the year in perspective in his report to the meeting. It was, he said, a challenging year for the association.

"A year ago we were facing these huge unknowns, with our tour bus bookings down 40%."

In addition the organization was nipping ant tucking at its internal operations, a "streamlining of the management" structures at Gerties, a manoeuvre which was, as Coonen understated it "not without controversy."

The KVA was also about to enter a fresh set of contract negotiations, as well as looking at two new, untried entertainment contractors for the Gerties and Palace Grand operations, "and we were holding our breath to see what was going to come out of both of our shows."

In the end, however, Coonen concluded, "We did okay. We kind of got through it.

"Gerties didn't make as much as we hoped it would make, the Palace Grand didn't lose as much as we thought it was going to lose. The number of visitors on the street was down. We could see that all year."

So how did the organization survive. Coonen put it down to tight accounting and budget control, casting a lot of the credit on the general manager "Skinflint" Valerie Anderson, who gained a round of applause from the membership for her efforts in "rising herd on the expenses all season."

Some of those expenses included payroll which, after restructuring, had dropped from 37% (1998) to 33.19% (2002). Administrative wages have dropped from 7.% to 5% while the cost of management has also been slimmed from 18.7% to 12.99%. Pretty clearly the bottom line would have been worse without those changes.

A new initiative for the association is one being undertaken with joint funding from the City of Dawson. An convention promotion office has been planned. The details haven't been worked out completely yet, but there is the hope that the town might see the type of off-season convention business that it had from October 2001 through September 2002 on a regular basis if the planning and marketing is properly carried out.

The prognosis for the coming year is not great. Some of the problems have been mentioned already. Holland-America has created another one by ceasing to have the show at the Palace Grand as a regular part of its packaged bus tours. Visitors can still sign up for it on the company website, but it is now an option, and that means that a large chunk of pre-booked seats at the PG will be gone.

The Gaslight Follies show at the PG is never a money maker. There's an annual rental of $26,000 to Parks Canada, plus the cost of the entertainment contract to think of, but it has been considered as an attraction in the KVA's bid to get people to stay more than one night in the town. The association expected it to lose almost $65 thousand last year, and it lost only $34.5.

As Coonen put it, "We got kicked only half as hard as we had thought."

The KVA would rather budget on the conservative side, so it may be that the numbers put forward at the AGM are worst-case and that the actual situation might be better.

But, as Coonen said early in the meeting, the future is uncertain: "I don't have a clue what we're walking into."

The other major item of business at the meeting was the election of new board members. The KVA has a twelve member board with overlapping 1 and 2 year terms. Those members with a year left to serve are Gail Hendley, Rene Jansen, Jorn Meier and Wayne Rachel. New elected to the board for two year terms were: Peggy Amendola (seasonal member), Kim Bouzane, Brenda Caley, Tim Coonen, Dominic Lloyd and Dick Van Nostrand. Walter Procyk and Heidi Bliedung were elected for 1 year terms.

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Funding Remains a Key Issue in Youth Justice Initiatives

by Dan Davidson


Judge Heino Lilles gestures while making a point about the new Youth Criminal Justice Act. Photo by Dan Davidson

Judge Heino Lilles has a little game he likes to play at the beginning of panel discussions on the new Youth Criminal Justice Act. He asks a few simple questions about the state of youth crime in Canada and about how we handle it.

Did you know:

Jail, Lilles informed the 20 Dawsonites in the Downtown Hotel conference room on February 24, seems to have about the same affect on young people as doing nothing does, and it's a lot more expensive. Indeed, longer terms usually increase the rate of repeat offending, as youth in custody, even those who were poor students outside, seem to be able to learn a lot of bad habits and new techniques quickly while incarcerated.

The judge, along with YTG's Paddy Colfer (Social Services), Angie Senft (Social Services) and David McWhinnie (federal Crown Prosecutor's office) were in Dawson to explain the changes which will come into force when the Young Offenders Act (1984) is replaced by the Youth Criminal Justice Act.

There are many changes in this document, which Lilles characterized as longer, more complex and more disorganized than its predecessor, and it's not likely to please everyone any more than the old act did.

It's tougher in some ways. There are harsher penalties available to the courts. It's going to be hard on repeat violent offenders and it will be easier to have a violent offender tried under the adult criminal code.

On the other hand, it will tend not to send youth to jail for property crimes, will allow them to be released with 2/3 of time served (as with adults) and will tend towards the imposition of community based solutions to the problems caused by youth crime. Custody will be a last resort. Diversion will be increasingly used to handle less serious offences.

According to McWhinnie, this style of diversion will have a lot of options that haven't been available under the YOA. He said that the YOA institutionalized what had been an informal process and made it harder to find innovative ways to deal with youth, at least in part because there had to be a formal charge laid before diversion could begin.

The crown prosecutor felt that there would be more room under the YCJA to make the punishment fit the crime and perhaps even the criminal.

In addition, noted Judge Lilles, diversions are now supposed to be victim oriented and victims are supposed to be consulted about outcomes in ways that they have not been for the last 20 years.

Paddy Colfer felt that there would be better resolutions between victims and offenders under the new law.

The act expects that justice committees will be formed in nearly every community, no matter how large or small, and these will have a great deal to do with the administration and disposition of cases involving the young.

Dawson is already somewhat ahead of the national curve is dealing with youth, Lilles noted. He had fulsome praise for the work of the Community Group Conferencing association and its coordinator, Cheryl Laing. The CGC isn't a justice committee, but it is the organization from which one might be forged.

It was left to Helen Bowie, who rents office space to the CGC, to ask the obvious question: who's going to pay for all this?

The answer was murky. Colfer indicated that there were lots of pots of money available for funding, but local experience has shown that this is primarily start-up money, and that organizations already in progress have a harder time accessing grants.

Lilles sympathized. " We're dumping and downloading," he said. "If you sit back and do nothing you're going to be taken advantage of."

The only solution the panel had to offer was that someone was going to be hired to help community groups prepare their grant applications. Locals felt this was an inadequate response, that if this committee approach is important, it should be a line item in a budget somewhere, that if it's saving the traditional system money, some of that money should be used to fund the process.

While Colfer told Kathy White, who raised that last point, that her logic was flawless, he went on to talk of the fixed costs within the existing structure that will likely preclude this type of accounting.

Lilles spoke in favour of arguments for finding stable funding, lamenting, "You're going to burn out looking for money. We can't let that happen.":

There was no indication at the two hour meeting, however, that there was any serious answer to this basic question.

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Zacharias Kunuk: Modern Media Preserves Old Stories

by Dan Davidson


Kunuk appreciated the gift of locally made gloves, presented by Glenda Bolt. Photo by Dan Davidson

Zacharias Kunuk is so soft spoken that it almost doesn't help to put a microphone in his hands. Speaking at the Dänòja Zho Cultural Centre on January 31, the Inuit film maker also proved to be a man of few words. He spoke briefly about the things which inspired him to begin his film making career, and then let his creations do his talking for him.

In between and after the two films, he answered questions and talked a bit about how his break-out film, "Atanarjuat - the Fast Runner", was produced.

It's been over twenty years since Zacharias Kunuk bought his first video camera with money he and a friend made carving soapstone figurines. That was a big leap for the boy who had been born in a sod house in 1957, and had been tricked (as he puts it) into going to school in Igloolik at the age of nine, in 1966.

Kunuk grew up without television. The community kept it out during a couple of local referenda because there was nothing on it in Inuktitut in those days and "because we didn't understand it."

Kunuk's exposure to video culture came from watching 16 mm movies at the local community hall for 25¢ a pop. He made carvings for his teachers to earn the money and rooted for John Wayne against the Indians. Later he learned better.

The carving brought him money and a certain degree of fame, but he was still captivated by pictures, first by 35 mm cameras, which he used to document the hunts, and then, finally by a Betamax video camera.

He had always been fascinated by stories of the old days, of how hunters could leave the shoreline behind to seek out their prey and still manage to get back safely, with no reference points. He captured video of his father and others telling stories about hunting and the past and found that when he was screening them at home, kids would be pressed up against his windows, just watching.

It seemed that one way to keep the old ways alive in story form would be to record such things on video. When he joined the Inuit Broadcasting Corporation he thought he would get to do that. He regrets that so much footage of elders telling stories ended up on the cutting room floor due to IBC's focus on current affairs.

After 8 years he left IBC and joined with three other men (Norman Cohn, Paul Apak and Paul Qulitgalik) to form a small corporation. They called it Isuma Productions, from a word which means "to think", because they had a lot of thinking to do.

At IBC they had made a start at recreating the past; now they wanted to do it on film, a medium which they now felt they understood well enough to make it work.

The first film shown that night was "Quviasukvik (Happy Day)" a recreation of a Christmas Day celebration in 1946 made in1995. This is a video from the successful Nunavut series. The other was a documentary called "Nippi (Voice)" a 999 documentary about the pitfalls of getting involved in government and the long process that led to the creation of the territory of Nunavut.

During all this time "Atanarjuat" was in production, writing having begun in 1995. Shooting began in 1999, editing was done in 2000 and just over a year later it blew everyone away at Cannes ... and the Toronto Film Festival ... and the Genie Awards. It was still winning awards a year after that in places as diverse as Edinburgh and San Diego.

All of which seems to prove Kunuk's point: "I didn't see why we couldn't do films."

The success he has had and the films that were shown in Dawson seem to indicate that, as he claims, "We do understand it now."

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Felt Making

by Palma Berger


Nikki Scotney works at matting her fibres during the felt making workshop. Photo by Palma Berger

This course was given by Susan Stuart of Mayo. Stuart has been working in fibre for 25 years. As well as felt making she also does spinning and weaving. Last year she had a booth at the Riverside Arts Festival in Dawson.

For the felt making course she had a large quantity of wool. This the students soaped up, then squeezed out by rolling in slatted bamboo. Later they added dyed strands of wool fibre. Others chose to just work the wool by hand.

The results were so colourful, and were soon to become mats, jackets, head coverings or whatever one wished.

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Thornhill Arrives at Berton House

by Anne Saunders, Public Librarian


Jan Thornhill reads to students of St. Isadore Catholic School. Photo from National Library of Canada Bulletin website

Our newest Berton House writer arrived Monday night and will be staying here until the end of May. Jan Thornhill writes and illustrates children's books and has published The Rumor, fall 2002; Before & After, fall 1997; Wild in the City, fall 1995; Crow and Fox and Other Animal Legends, fall 1993 and others. In the library's collection is: The Wildlife ABC: a Nature Alphabet and The Wildlife 123: a Nature Counting Book. Such descriptions as, "magnificent...imaginative and sophisticated...beautifully designed and executed...a wonderful introduction to the alphabet and to Canadian wildlife..." have been mentioned of Wildlife 123. In the fall of 2000, she also wrote Drought and Other Stories for adults, published by Cormorant Books, this book belongs to the Dawson collection as well.

Jan will be giving two separate public readings one for children and one for adults. Jan also plans on doing a presentation for some classes within the school. The children's reading will be held on Thursday, March 20th at 2:30 in the library. The adult reading will be on Tuesday, March 25th in the library starting at 7:00. All are welcome to come and join us for these events.

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