Dawson City, Yukon Friday, March 28, 2003

The morning sun crests the hill at 10 a.m. as the mushers make ready to hit the trail for the Percy DeWolfe Mail Race. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Protest March - Black Wednesday
The Pioneer Hall - Black Wednesday
Motion Urges Thibault to Consult on Placer Authorization
Thanks from the KPMA
Confusion over Future of Dawson Women's Shelter
No CDF Funds for Dawson This Time
Council Supports Museum
27th DeWolfe Race Hits the Trail
There's Music in the Air

Welcome to the March 28, 2003 edition of the online Klondike Sun, which reproduces a selection of the 28 photographs and 17 articles that were in the 20 page March 25 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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Protest March - Black Wednesday

by Palma Berger


Protest marchers head for the offices of the Dept. of Fisheries on Black Wednesday. Photo by John Tyrrell

The Protest March was advertised as starting at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday, from the statue of the miner on Front Street, but word was that the speeches would begin at 10:00 a.m.; so people started to gather there at that time. The bells at St. Paul's tolled at that time also. No speeches but the assembly grew steadily larger. This was the protest organized by the Chamber of Commerce and the supporters of mining, against the December 16th announcement of the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans. On that date the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans announced the phasing out of the Yukon Placer Authorization which is an authorization allowed by the Minister, which nullified certain fisheries laws. Once Y.P.A. is phased out these laws will once again come into effect. The protesters feel that making these regulations effective once again will cause most of the mining operators to close down, as operating under the these regulations will not be affordable plus they do feel that mining as it is, does not cause the damage as suggested.

To show the effect on the town when there is no money from mining coming in, the Chamber asked the businesses to shut down for part or whole of the day. To that end the businesses in town put up a 'Closed' sign on their doors, and many had a black ribbon across their front door.

The crowd grew to over 200 people. There must not be a whole cardboard carton left in town judging by the number of placards that were carried. Placards carrying such signs as "Placer Miner seeking employment"; "I mine and I fish"; "This poor miner Joe, Has got to go. Thanks to Thibault, and the DFO." It was unfortunate for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans that his named rhymed so well with DFO as the rhymes appeared often.

Bill Bowie announced that there was hot chocolate to warm everyone. It was a clear day of bright sunshine reflecting off snow, but the temperatures were in the low -30's. The hot chocolate could be easily found. It was on the back of the truck sitting right next to the black draped coffin bearing yellow roses and with YPA (Yukon Placer Authorization) on the side. Beside the statue were several long mounds of snow. Each had a tombstone at one end and a pair of shoes at the other. This showed the demise of Miner Joe and his mates.

President of the Chamber of Commerce, Jorn Meier arrived. Speaking from the truck he said how astonished he was by the number who had turned up. He went on to describe how he had been blown away by this area when he first arrived here. It was such a mosaic of different things, a vibrant art scene, the native culture, the land, the mining. These diverse pieces made up the social fabric. He proceeded to point out that if anything happened to mining it wouldn't just be mining that would suffer, but the town also. He was very thankful for all the support for a community under attack. He received cheers when he said that after Anne Ledwidge the rest of the speeches would take place in the Pioneer Hall. The temperature was not conducive for standing around listening to speeches.

Ledwidge spoke as Director of the KPMA, as the president was away. She found it incredible that businesses would give up a day of business to support the cause. She went on to explain that with the economy diminished by mining's collapse, the townsfolk would find services and supplies affected, the population would drop, the tax paying base shrink, Health Care, schools and families would be affected. She went on to say, even the announcement re the new regulations has affected the investment potential. Potential investors have turned away as there is no certainty for mining.

The crowd with their families, children and even the dogs began their march to the various government offices. These were still manned as government offices cannot shut down as easily. First down to the Welfare Office to learn how to apply for welfare should they need it. They studied the in depth questions on the application forms, learned that it may be a long wait for the welfare, and were surprised at the lowly amount they would receive. The crowd, still in jovial mood, moved on to the Mining Recorder's office, the Fisheries Department and the Post Office, to end at the Pioneer Hall where hot soup and hot beverages awaited them.

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The Pioneer Hall - Black Wednesday

by Palma Berger


There were speeches of protest here on Front Street at the Tribute to the Miner statue as well as at the Yukon Order of Pioneers Hall. Photo by Kelly Miller

The marchers from both Mayo and Dawson packed the Pioneer Hall. The speakers were M.P. Larry Bagnell, Don Cox from Whitehorse of Yukon Chamber of Commerce, Dawson's Mayor Glenn Everitt, Archie Lang Yukon Territory's Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, and Jorn Meier of Dawson Chamber of Commerce.

Meier began by again thanking the many organizations and individuals, (especially Lindsay Jordan, Chamber Manager who put in long hours) who made this well-organised event happen. He said that the Dec. 16th announcement of DFO practically forbids any discharges into streams. The only way to beat this is to use an internal water supply, i.e. the same water over and over again. But many valleys are too narrow for this. Thibault assured them that his representatives would study every stream, but some doubt this will happen. A DIAND study shows that 50% of miners will have to close. The success of today's initiative shows the miners have support.

Mayor Everitt stated that the City is very concerned. He brought it up with the Municipalities who at first thought it just a local concern, but at a later meeting made a motion that the YPA problem is a national one, and they will support them.

Everitt explained that DFO had different standards for dealing with different industries. He noted Pulp and Paper mills, shipyards and docks as examples. The YPA is by far the smallest outfit. But what applies to YPA should apply to others. The representatives of the Federation will meet with Thibault and request that there be an internal review of the Department of Fisheries. This last announcement brought much applause.

Everitt gave Larry Bagnell credit for coming to what could have been a hostile environment, but assured him that the anger is directed at the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans.

Don Cox said that one had to come to Dawson to see the manifestation of such a spirit as shown here. He gave assurances of the many business organizations who have proclaimed themselves as 'Friends of the Miners'. He assured those present that even in the rural communities businesses are closing for one hour to show their support. He suggested one course of action might be legal action against DFO. It was later pointed out that litigation may take years and the industry could not afford to lose time.

M.L.A. Archie Lang, reported that they had been assured that everything was fine, and so were shocked by the Dec. 16th announcement. There was no pre-warning of the decision.

While admitting that the Dept. of Fisheries and Oceans is a very powerful Department, he believes that Mr. Thibault was given the wrong information, as happened with the cod situation in eastern Canada. 'This is the man who wants to shut down the cod industry', he said.

'We are a little bit further ahead now than at Dec. 16th ., thanks to the efforts of Larry Bagnall and (Senator) Ione Christiansen. We won't get ahead by pointing fingers at bad people. We have to win Mr. Thibault over to get him out of this mess.'

M.P. Larry Bagnall praised the 'fantastic' turnout. He is going to make sure this gets back to Ottawa. He too congratulated the organizers. As he talks to Tara Christie every day he is well up on the situation. The Grand Chief and Premiers have talked to the Minster. All leaders of the political parties in the Yukon support them, although he admitted it was difficult for the N.D.P. as some had mixed feelings but they did come on side.

'There is a history of dredge mining in the Yukon but the fish are still here,' he stated. 'Darren Taylor and Peter Nagano say the resources are not threatened. Gold in the creeks is what Yukon is.'

Even Tourism is helped by mining, and he gave the example of David Millar's operation on Hunker. Mining allows hotels to survive and service the Tourism industry.

Bagnell thanked everyone for their letters.

Archie Lang when questioned on his statement of DFO employing 'divide to rule' tactics, explained that the Dept. of Fisheries had sent people up here to try to make their ruling more palatable to certain people. 'We have talked to the DFO and asked them not to send anyone up here when we are in the middle of negotiations', he went on.

Judging by the response from the crowd the supporters felt more assured that so many were on their side, and they hope for a positive outcome form all this.

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Motion Urges Thibault to Consult on Placer Authorization

WHITEHORSE (March 12, 2003) - Members of the Yukon Legislative Assembly have unanimously supported a motion urging federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans Minister Robert Thibault to keep the existing Yukon Placer Authorization in place until he fully consults on a new one.

"I'm extremely pleased to have received the support of my colleagues in the House for this important issue," Premier Dennis Fentie said. "Placer mining has remained the economic mainstay of this territory for more than 100 years and we need to do everything we can to make sure that legacy continues for hundreds more."

The motion asks that Thibault conduct a "proper consultation" on a replacement authorization that protects fish habitat without jeopardizing responsible placer mining operations.

It notes that the recent decision to phase out the existing placer authorization was made without meeting the consultation requirements of Yukon First Nations land claims and self-government final agreements.

"We agreed this decision did not give due consideration to all the economic and social impacts on Yukon people and their families, or on the Yukon's economy as a whole." Fentie said.

"On a matter of such importance to the future of the territory, the members of the three parties represented in the Legislature worked as one to send a strong message out to Ottawa, and I commend them for it."

The Yukon Placer Authorization was signed in 1993. It was established to enable placer miners to continue operating while protecting and preserving fish habitat.

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Thanks from the KPMA

Dear Editor,

The Klondike Placer Miners' Association would like to express our heartfelt thanks for the amazing support Yukoners have shown our industry since Minister Thibault's decision to eliminate the Yukon Placer Authorization (YPA). The letters that you have been writing to the Minister, other elected representatives, and newspapers have helped to keep attention focused on an issue of vital importance to the Yukon.

Our government representatives - Premier Dennis Fentie and the Yukon Territorial Government, MP Larry Bagnell, and Senator Ione Christensen - have worked tirelessly in the Yukon and in Ottawa trying to move a Ministry that is generally considered unmovable in Canada.

The Yukon Council of First Nations and the (Tr'ondek Hwech'in and Nacho Nyak Dun) have stood shoulder to shoulder with us in defending the right of Yukoners to determine how best to manage our own resources and our shared vision of a sustainable future.

The Friends of Placer Mining - a coalition of Yukon's businesses and associations - has been an invaluable ally, both in the support they have shown us locally and in their capacity to bring this issue to a broader audience of Canadians through their national networks.

Mayor Glen Everitt of Dawson City, who established the KPMA Lobby Fund at CIBC branches in the Yukon, has been a staunch crusader for our cause. The Yukon Chamber of Mines and Chambers of Commerce have supported us in every possible way.

Yukon Placer Miners have never been so proud as they were last week to witness and participate in Dawson's Black Wednesday. Only in the Yukon would a city shut down its businesses and take to the street (at 35-below temperatures!) to protest an injustice perpetrated by Ottawa. Dawson's demonstration of the threat to the Yukon's economy, and the support of businesses in Whitehorse and other parts of the Yukon, gained national media exposure for our cause. And what can we say about our musical miners and their recording of "KPMA" by the Dawson Village People? Awesome!

There is a wind of protest blowing out of the Yukon that is beginning to whistle in the ears of all Canadians who recognize that government and its agencies are meant to serve the people, not to render them servile.

From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for your determination to protect the independent spirit of the Yukon - a spirit that has at its core an understanding of and respect for the special environment we share, and the courage and wisdom to act in the best interests of our people.

Through your efforts, our issue has become a bigger one than DFO bargained for. The Ministry might have thought a Yukon industry could be easily offered up to appease special interests because we're small and far away. But you've shown them differently in no uncertain terms. Our challenge now is to keep the pressure on. Given what we've accomplished in three months, the KPMA has no doubt that the Yukon can keep it coming.

Tara Christie, M.A.Sc.
President, Klondike Placer Miners' Association

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Confusion over Future of Dawson Women's Shelter

by Dan Davidson
with files from the Whitehorse Star and CBC Radio 1, Whitehorse


The future operations at the Dawson Women's Shelter , located in the left half of this duplex, are in doubt as a result of actions taken by the government department of which Klondike's MLA, Peter Jenkins, is the Minister in change. Photo by Dan Davidson

Will there or won't there be a 24 hour facility at the Dawson Women's Shelter? That seems to be the $50,000 question.

When the board of the shelter, a non-governmental organization, was recently notified that there would be a $50,000 cut in its base funding that posed the members a problem. Even worse was the instruction, from Anne Westcott, the director of family and children services for the territorial Health and Social Services Dept., that the $142,000 the shelter was going to receive could be used for anything but a 24 hour respite program.

The Shelter could only operate, Westcott instructed them, as a "Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., family violence prevention, community outreach and referral service for Dawson City. Funding will not be provided for evening, night and weekend staffing.."

Women and children with problems could contact a social worker, be installed in a hotel for a period and then shipped to the Kaushee's Place shelter in Whitehorse.

That wasn't the end of the story, however. The minister in charge of the H&SS is Klondike MLA Peter Jenkins, who came under some fire from the society and town council for allowing this reduction in services to take place.

In a CBC radio report he indicated that the cut in the grant was prompted by a shift in the behavior of those seeking aid and respite.

"The reduction of $50,000 reflects the extra cost of double staffing," he told the Yukon legislature. "The need, Mister Speaker, is in Whitehorse where a lot of the rural ladies are choosing to come when they're in difficulty."

He added that it was Kaushee's Place in Whitehorse that needed more support.

Jenkins was quoted in the Whitehorse Star as saying that the Shelter's cuts came from it being used less - 28 nights last year, down 35 from the year before and 65 the year before that - and that some of this reduction might be because the location of the shelter was so well known that people didn't feel secure there.

The shelter uses half of a Yukon Housing duplex at Dugas Street and Front Street.

"I don't understand why he would say that," retorted the shelter's Louise Blanchard, quoted in the Star. She said the location is known, which is a good thing because women know where to go. On top of that, she added, it's a very safe building.

But that wasn't Jenkins last word on the matter. On Friday the Star quoted him as saying that the Shelter society was an NGO which could use its grant money any way it chose and set its own priorities.

"I don't know how the department got involved in it. This is a (non-governmental organization) that is arm's-length from the government and they're completely within their rights to run their programs in the manner that they deem appropriate," said Jenkins.

"The main function is that of a women's shelter, and they've done a very capable job of running a women's shelter and we'd like - I'm sure they're going to continue."

"I don't believe that the government should be involved in making that determination. I'll take it up with the department."

Jenkins was asked why the department is telling the shelter how and when the shelter should operate if he believes it shouldn't be involved.

"I don't know," he replied.

Premier Dennis Fentie also maintained that the shelter will be able to do what it's supposed to do, if there is a need.

"We don't dictate to the shelter how it operates," he added.

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No CDF Funds for Dawson This Time

by Dan Davidson

"Devastated" was the word used by Mayor Glen Everitt on March 18 to describe Dawson council's realization that the town had been completely omitted from the winter works Community Development Fund awards announced on March 3. (see YTG press release #040, dated March 3/03)

Acting on what it understood to be the guidelines for this round of submissions, the town had entered a request for $600,000 to do work on the second floor of the new recreation centre, work which had been planned but had had to be cut out of the project when the initial tender proposals turned out to be far in excess of what the architectural firm had estimated they would be.

An angry Byrun Shandler, who was acting mayor at the March 3 meeting, reported that "Dawson was the only town shut out of the CDF funding."

Neither the council proposal nor one made by the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in was accepted in this round, according to information received from the first nation council.

Shandler, though angry, restrained his tongue throughout that meeting, indicating that the town was being allowed to submit another project outside of the deadline. As for the recreation centre proposal, council members speculated that that it would have been difficult for the Yukon Party government to put any money into the continuation of a project of which it had been so critical while it was in opposition during its construction.

With Mayor Everitt's return on March 18 it was revealed that the backup project would be repairs and renovations to the facilities at Minto Park, a proposal in the range of $250,000, which was so far being looked on favorably by YTG. It was uncertain if this project would be passed for the current round of winter works or if it would be accepted for the next round.

Everitt responded to complaints that the community had also not received any money under the Firesmart program, noting that neither the town nor the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in (as he had been told by Chief Darren Taylor) had applied for any grants in the opening round of that program. Applications will be going out for the next round, based on a fully developed fire protection program that was written after the nearly disastrous 1999 summer fire season.

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Council Supports Museum

by Dan Davidson


Fred Berger (left) receives a cheque from Mayor Glen Everitt on behalf of the Dawson City Museum. Photo by Dan Davidson

Dawson's city council has indicated its support for the work of the Dawson City Museum by donating $10,000 to the facility for the coming year. Museum Society chair Fred Berger was on hand to receive the cheque from Mayor Glen Everitt on March 18.

Council member lamented the fact that they couldn't afford to give more to this important facility.

"I think," said Mayor Glen Everitt, "that the onus in on this council, once YTG has reviewed its spending, that we do review it as a council and support the efforts of the museum."

Council spent some minutes discussing ways to support the Museum board in any request for increased funding that it might put to the YTG.

"The baseline funding for the museum has been the same for over a decade," said Byrun Shandler. "Something has to give."

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27th DeWolfe Race Hits the Trail

by Dan Davidson


John Douglas, wearing bib #2, was first away at the Percy DeWolfe race. Photo by Dan Davidson

While the dogs of war had been let loose in Iraq the night before, folks in the Klondike were more concerned about another type of dog on the morning of March 20. With bright sunshine just topping the Dome and temperatures hovering around -16?C, a couple of hundred Dawsonites gathered along King Street to watch the beginning of the 27th annual running of the Percy DeWolfe Memorial Mail Race.

While the numbers were down to 19 teams from last year's 26, it was still an eager and healthy group of dogs and mushers that gathered to take on the 340 kilometre round trip to Eagle, Alaska and back.

As always bib number 1 was reserved for the Iron Mailman in whose name the race was started. The honour of wearing number 2, and therefore being first out of the gate, fell to John Douglas of Saskatchewan who also got to carry the commemorative mailbag celebrating Percy's 40 years in harness.

It was an international field this year, with mushers from Alaska, Montana, Germany, Denmark and Switzerland, along with those from the Yukon and the NWT..

In bib order they were: 3- Jeanne Strahl (MT); 4- Solomon Carriere (SK); 5 - Crispin Struder (Switz.); 6 - Sebastian Schnuelle (YT); 7 - Rick Townsend (AK); 8 - William Kleedehn (YT); 9 - Michael Salvisberg (YT); 10 - Anne Ledwidge (Dawson); 11 - Ed Hopkins (YT); 12 - Robin Harvey (NWT); 13 - Agata Franczak (Dawson); 14 - William Cotter (AK); 15 - Sarah Spinola (YT); 16 - Per Nielson (Den.); 17 - Dieter Dolif (Ger.); 18 - Brian MacDougall (YT); 19 - Lucas Cramer (AK), 20 - Paul Strahl (MT).

Percy DeWolfe made his way down the road at 10 a.m., with the rest trailing behind him at two minute intervals. They all turned the corner at Front Street, headed up and over the dyke, and descended to the Yukon River, rapidly warming up in the bright morning sunshine.

In spite of things being a little too warm, the teams made good time to the halfway point at Fortymile and all but two of them had left there by not long after 5:30 that afternoon. Indeed, race president Brent MacDonald reported that William Kleedehn had set what appeared to be a record for that part of the trip, arriving there in 3 hours and 59 minutes. Last year's winner, Brian MacDougall, got there in 4:16, and many of the others weren't far behind that. They might have been pulling into Eagle by 10 o'clock if that pace held.

At Eagle the teams face a mandatory layover which runs from 6 hours (for the last team to start) to 6:36 (for the first team to start) in order to even out the race and make sure that the first team back in Dawson sometime on Friday will actually be the winning team.

For those left behind in Dawson, there was another race, the mass start Junior Percy, which took off from the river along the same route at 12:30. Eight teams took on the 180 kilometre trip to Fortymile and back, with an overnight stay at the midpoint. Those hardy souls were Gerry Willomitzer (Whitehorse); Kiara Adams (Whitehorse), Peter Ledwidge ( Dawson); Marcia Jordan (Dawson); Cor Guimond (Dawson); Michelle Phillips (Tagish); Zoyas Denure (AK); and Christine Curtis (Dawson). Curtis had to scratch due to a problem with one of her dogs.

In fact, it's a racing weekend here, with yet another event, a 16 kilometre sprint, running on the ice bridge as part of Dawson's spring carnival on Saturday.

So much more fun than running a tank in a sand storm.

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There's Music in the Air

by Dan Davidson


Part of the horn section from the school's concert band. Photo by Dan Davidson

Music students at Robert Service School showcased their talents in a well attended concert on March 6.

Divided into three segments, the evening, directed by music teacher Shelly Rowe, moved from the simple to the complex, beginning with the Band 7 students who were performing in public for the first time this year.

The beginners performed nine short pieces, each selected to strengthen a particular area of their musical skill. With everything from traditional folk songs to snippets of Mozart and Brahms in evidence, the small group showed that they had learned a lot so far this year.

The RSS Jazz Band is a group of dedicated musicians willing to give up a couple of noon hours a week to stretch their musical legs and practice their chops. While they played only two pieces, "A Blues to Blow On" and "Stand By Me", these were extended versions that allowed various members of the group to show off a bit and allowed for some variety in arrangements.

The Concert Band is composed of students in grades 8 through 11, with some numbers performed only by the 9 to 11 section. They are learning their pieces in their separate band classes, and really only get to hear the whole thing when they come together just before a performance. The results shown in the seven songs they performed were quite impressive.

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