Dawson City, Yukon · Friday, May 12, 2000

The Yukon River breakup is always one of the surest signs of spring. Photo by Dan Davidson

Feature Stories

Local Woman Wins the Ice Pool
Klondike River Clears Slowly
City Plans for Secondary Sewage Treatment Involve Edmonton Firm
Eden Robinson: Having the Time of Her Life
The Klondike Visitors Association Annual Meeting
Appointment of a New Executive Director
Much Music Rocks the School
Volunteer Awards Presented - Four Will Come to Dawson Later
Couple Walks across Canada just for the Fun of It
Editorial: Happy Birthday to Us!

Welcome to the May 12th on-line edition of the Klondike Sun. This is the abridged version of our May 9th hard copy edition. Getting a subscription (see our home page) is the only way you'll ever see it all.

Local Woman Wins the Ice Pool

by Dan Davidson


Jumble ice coasts by in the Yukon River. It was all gone a few days later. Photo by Dan Davidson

Even when it isn't dramatic, the annual breakup of the Yukon River is still exciting. It's a sure sign that summer is near. This year it was a little quiet though, as there was no fire alarm to be sounded when the word got out. The fire hall is still under re-construction down on Front Street.

The river broke at 4:32 on Friday afternoon, right on the nose, according to Joyce Caley, who handles the annual project for the IODE. The wire extending from the tripod to the Han Cultural Centre tripped the clock mounted there at that time, but there were a number of people around who saw it go.

Kathy Jones Gates reports that she saw the tripod survive on the ice pan practically as far as the Moosehide corner, which isn't usual.

While a number of locals were enjoying the bracing air which always comes off the river after breakup, Joyce Caley peddled up on her bicycle to announce that the IODE had already found the winning ticket. This year it belongs to a local, Michelle Brodie of Dawson, had coincidentally been selling ice pool tickets to the crews at the Brewery Creek Mine, where she works.

Joyce had a Polaroid of the stopped clock. She says the time seems to have been popular with buyers. There was a cluster of tickets right around the actual time, two to five minutes either side of it. It is Brodie, however, who will take home the $2300.28 prize that is the pot generated by selling 4241 loonie priced tickets.

The IODE printed 5,000, but didn't sell them all. Caley says the prize is not officially awarded until a week after the event.

Sales this year were up just under 100 tickets from last year, but Caley says the IODE is seriously thinking about reducing the number of tickets printed to the average of 4200 which seems to get sold and raising the price to a toonie. It hasn't been raised in years, and it's getting harder for the organization to stretch its $1500 take over the numerous charitable works it tries to undertake.

"It would be more money for the IODE to do their good works," she said.

Our share will be $1513 or something like that.

She had high praise for the organizations and businesses that helped to make this year's ice pool trouble free. Last year the clock failed to stop and the time had to be established anecdotally, Not this year. They got the system fixed.

"The boys at Yukon Energy did a wonderful job," Caley said. "They tested it and removed something that was obstructing it and put a lighter wire on the final connection."

The ice pool is a community tradition, and a lot of people help make it work.

The Yukon Order of Pioneers looks after placing the tripod on the ice each year. NorthwesTel donates the wire and the folks from Yukon Energy hook it all up under the watchful eye of YOOP stalwart Jack Fraser.

As for the Yukon River, it looked a bit like it was full of slush, and the hissing noise it made as the various channels moved ice at a variety of speeds increased that impression. There were large, flat pans, lots of the, several metres wide, but none of the them looked threatening and the ones which had washed up on the shore were scarcely a metre thick.

On Friday night, it appeared that 2000 was another year when floods would not be a thing to worry about here.

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Klondike River Clears Slowly

by Dan Davidson


A Dawson resident and her dog enjoy an evening's walk beside the swiftly running Klondike River. Photo by Dan Davidson

One of the annual milestones of spring in Dawson arrived, with the clearing of the Klondike River. The mouth of the Klondike is open where it spills into the larger Yukon River, and its pressure is beginning to create the jumble ice that is the precursor of breakup season in the larger body of water.

The Klondike's breakup was not a clean and sudden thing. According to fire chief Chris Mayes it took place over several days, beginning on Sunday and really only concluding by Thursday.

On Sunday the river seemed about to clear. Over the next couple of days little ice jams formed to retard the process.

On Wednesday Mayes was in a helicopter over the Klondike River and observed a jam near the Callison subdivision, a second between Bear and Hunker Creeks, a third at the community of Rock Creek and another just south at Henderson's Corner.

It seems that none of these jams provided anything much in the way of problems for residents and by Thursday Mayes was hearing that all was clear as far south as the Dempster Corner.

Typically the Yukon River breaks up after the Klondike, anything from a few days to over a week later. This year, it was just a few days.

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City Plans for Secondary Sewage Treatment Involve Edmonton Firm

by Dan Davidson

The City of Dawson has signed an agreement with EPCOR Water Services of Edmonton to undertake a study regarding the construction and delivery of secondary sewage treatment services for the community. This does not change the city council's contention that the facility is not needed, but it does recognize the inevitable push by regulatory officials to move in that direction.

In a sense, council is tired of having the community be a whipping boy for the environmental movement. In another sense, the best that council has been able to get out of the Yukon Territory Water Board is an extension of the original January 2000 implementation deadline, so its members feel that they'd better be prepared to meet the next one.

When the water board came down with its as yet unofficial ruling on the case in January of this year, it ruled that the town would have to build secondary sewage treatment facilities by January 31, 2002.

While the Minister of DIAND, Bob Nault, has yet to sign the water board's report, which means that the City of Dawson is, for the first time actually in violation of its water use license, albeit because of delays over which it had no control. The water board's request, made in December 1999, for further scientific data meant that studies had to be done last summer, and then the board took several months to formulate its response to the 1999 hearing plus the new information.

The private/public partnership being proposed between EPCOR and the City of Dawson is something that Mayor Glen Everitt thinks is quite unique in the territory. City management has been looking at various companies for some time now, and the decision to go with "sole sourcing" this project to EPCOR took a while to develop.

City Manager Jim Kincaid's report to council notes that EPCOR is a private company, sort of a crown corporation in that it used to be the city of Edmonton's power and water departments. The resulting business is wholly owned by the city of Edmonton and works closely with the city's sewage treatment department.

EPCOR operates large water treatment systems, but contracts the design and building to private enterprise. It has joint agreements with numerous communities in Alberta and British Columbia.

Typically the plants that it runs have environmental standards which exceed those in the regulations. They meet their own standards over 99% of the time, which means that they always meet the regulations.

Kincaid and public works superintendent Norm Carlson toured an EPCOR facility during a recent trip to Edmonton and were favourably impressed by what they saw.

They see Dawson gaining a lot from the proposed agreement, citing a competent review of the proposed treatment plant design; project management for construction; access to people skilled in dealing with the federal approval process; interim financing for the project; 10% of the construction costs; training and backup for the local people who will be running the plant; access to back-up staff when needed an other related benefits.

EPCOR will get a 15% return on its investment here, but the company has projected that it can do that and still run the service at a cost Dawson can afford. Operations and maintenance costs have always been the primary objection here to moving into secondary treatment.

EPCOR also gets its foot in the door of northern expansion. Success in Dawson will be its ticket to success on bids in other northern areas which might need its services.

The project is not necessarily a go just yet. The signing of the agreement marks the beginning of a five stage process which will be concluded by the end of September. These include the creation of the partnership potential, development of a business plan, a public hearing and communication plan, a work plan and, if all of the foregoing are successful, the signing of a contract agreement.

Mayor and council have ventured the opinion that this stage, which would occur just before the fall municipal elections, would probably have to wait until the voting is done and the new council has a chance to look things over. A long term agreement, should one be signed, would be for a 20 year period, with an option to pull out after the first 3 years or on a year's notice.

The total budget for this part of the process is $110,000, split equally between EPCOR and the town. Eventual construction of the plant will be a multi-million dollar project. Most of that capital money was promised to the community by the former NDP government and the new Liberal government has indicated it will honour those pledges.

If the agreement goes through the City of Dawson will continue to own any facilities it now owns, will still control the rates of its existing utilities and would continue to collect any of the profits it now makes.

While it may seem odd that the City of Dawson would embark on this process in spite of what it feels is a very strong scientific case that the treatment plant isn't really needed, council indicates that it is simply accepting the reality that the pressure to do this is only going to increase with time. In due course the community will grow to the point where a plant would be needed, so if there is a way to do the project in an affordable manner, it might as well happen now.

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Eden Robinson: Having the Time of Her Life

by Dan Davidson


Eden Robinson reads at the Literary Cabaret in Whitehorse. Photo by Dan Davidson

Eden Robinson has an infectious laugh that seems to go with everything she does. She may be telling you a joke or reading some fairly grim passage from one of her stories, it doesn't matter. Suddenly her face will crinkle up, her mid-range voice will shift register and out will come this laugh that sounds like Bugs Bunny just before he says, "Ain't I a stinker?"

It all leads to the impression that the thirtysomething author of Monkey Beach is currently having the time of her life. She's been in the Yukon as writer-in-residence for Libraries and Archives Branch for some months now and will some be taking a couple of tours around the territory, but her job this week has been to help celebrate the Yukon Writers' Festival and specifically, when we meet, to guide a group of 14 young people as part of the annual Young Authors' Conference.

She says it's a bit different from the workshopping she's been doing with adults so far. The experience the kids are having with her is quite a bit different than anything she got to experience in school in Kitamaat Village.

What she remembers fondest about school days is the amount of time she had to read. At one point her classes were ungraded and grouped by reading level, and she was free to read anything. She read a lot of science fiction and especially the earlier novels of Stephen King. She also recalls skipping a lot of school and hanging out the town library, not far away.

"I had a grade four teacher who absolutely adored Edgar Allan Poe," she says, "so all through that year we were reading Poe's short stories." She says this accounts for some of the darker touches in her work. Also she remembers having Erik McCormick (The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women) visit her school and being fascinated by his use of words.

"I can't remember what he read from but I just remember being riveted by the material."

Originally she started writing because her favorite authors were writing often enough. So she started new stories with their characters, or changed the endings of books she hadn't quite been satisfied with.

She considered becoming a writer in grade 11 after she dropped the idea of being an astronaut. Two teachers in that grade were very influential, and read her stories out loud to the class when she was too shy ("What?" the reporter interrupts. "I don't believe it!") Also she had an uncle who wrote a local book.

University gave her the opportunity to test a lot of disciplines, but the one that stuck was creative writing.

"I was extremely, painfully shy until I was about 21," she says, "and writing gave me an outlet. It was a release."

It was also the beginning of a career. Several of the stories in Traplines, the eventual winner of the New York Times Editor's Choice and Notable Book of the Year awards as well as the Winifred Holtby Prize for the best work of fiction in the Commonwealth, began as exercises in her drive to complete her creative writing degrees.

The novel began to germinate while she was at the University of Victoria, but it took her a few years to develop the skill and "strength of character" to tackle it. The short stories came along during her first degree as well. The first one came in four hours and took a week to finish. One of them took 32 drafts - complete changes - before it was finished.

On the other hand, Robinson more or less scored an agent on the basis of the first two stories she completed and when she had enough for a book, the agent was still waiting. Even before that, she had decided what she wanted to do.

"Writing seemed like a lot of fun, so I decided to take my Masters at UBC."

She began something she called "The Shamanic Verses" as a thesis and eventually it turned into her novel. When she decided to use it for a Canada Council explorations grant, she had to change her thesis, so she polished up her short stories and got them ready to print. Then the grant program fell to budget cuts and she sent the finished collection off to the agent who had shown interest in her first two stories. ("I couldn't afford to waste all that high quality paper and laser printing.")

Short story collections are notoriously hard to peddle, and her agent warned not to "give up her day job" (a mail clerk at the local Employment Canada branch)or expect much.

Several awards later, it was obvious that they had underestimated the power of her work.

So far, she admits her career is almost a cliché: write about what you know; start with short works and build your craft up to the point of tackling a novel. The resemblance ends, however, when your first two books attract the kind of attention her work is getting nationally and internationally.

Since then she's only been doing short work because she's been too busy travelling, being a writer-in-residence and thinking about what she might tackle next.

Her advice to her students is also pretty standard: keep flexing the writing muscles by actually doing it; read a lot; develop the skills.

She's really enjoyed her time at the conference and feels that the kids have been doing just fine.

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The Klondike Visitors Association Annual Meeting

Dawson City - The Klondike Visitors Association approved a $2.6 million dollar budget at its Annual General Meeting in Dawson City on April 25,2000. Forty members attended the meeting and approved the audited financial statements that summarized a $2.5 million dollar investment in the Klondike. Highlights of the past year include the conclusion of negotiations and ratification of a new three-year agreement with our union employees, initiation of the Guns and Ammo building transfer with Don Cox of Northern Metallic, the final payment on loans outstanding to the City, a new ATM machine, Diamond Tooth Gerties renovations & winter opening and several successful community events casinos.

The membership elected a new Board of Directors consisting of: Peggy Amendola, Tim Coonen, Gail Hendley, Rene Jansen, Jorn Meier, Uta Reilly, Diane Roy, Dick VanNostrand, and John Weirda. They will join Directors Marlene Braga, Brenda Caley, Peter Jenkins and Steve Touchie who are concluding their second year of elected term. The Directors met subsequently and elected an executive as follows:

Chairman - Steve Touchie
1st Vice Chair - Brenda Caley
2nd Vice Chair - Marlene Braga
Treasurer - John Wierda
Secretary - Tim Coonen
Past Chair - Dick VanNostrand

The Klondike Visitors Association operates Diamond Tooth Gerties Casino, The Gaslight Follies at the Palace Grand Theatre and markets the Klondike through the operation of attractions, special events, trade shows and other promotional activities.

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Appointment of a New Executive Director

Dawson City - Steve Touchie, Chairman of the Klondike Visitor's Association is pleased to announce that Valerie Anderson of Dawson City has been appointed Executive Director of the Association. Mrs. Anderson, a long-time Dawsonite, has worked for the KVA for over nine years in a senior management position. As well as a strong financial and administrative background, Valerie also has extensive knowledge of Dawson City and the Klondike Visitors Association.

Dick VanNostrand, the outgoing Chairperson of the Association, observed, "I believe that we are going through yet another difficult time in the evolution of the organization. Growth in numbers of visitors will not be as we have seen over the past few years and the proliferation of gaming venues worldwide has taken some of the uniqueness of our gaming facility away. These types of challenges are not new to the association but I think they cannot be overlooked and will need our attention and resources in the years ahead. We are pleased the Valerie has accepted the challenge to direct our Association during this period."

Please join in wishing Valerie every success in this challenging and exciting role.

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Much Music Rocks the School

by Dan Davidson


Much Music VJ Jeff Dick keeps the videos spinning. Photo by Dan Davidson

Thursday night is a little odd for a high school dance, but then it isn't every night that the Much Music van rolls into town, so that makes it special.

A Much Music Dance, you see, involves more than just a DJ and music. It involves a video DJ (or VJ), a 10 foot by 14 foot rear projection television screen, and young people dancing along to their favorite music videos.

Jeff Dick, the VJ, sits at an elaborate console crowded with tv monitors and sets up the music, adding his own comments and encouraging the dancers to keep the energy high throughout the set.

For Dick, and his assistant, Sean Buchanan (son of the Kitchener, Ontario, based owner of the company), the trip to Dawson started on Tuesday afternoon in Calgary, and entailed a 2600 kilometre, 36 hour drive to the site of their first presentation during this trip to the Yukon.

To look at the setup, you'd think they'd need a bigger truck, but it's all squeezed into a 3/4 ton van.

"This is half our stuff," Dick says, gesturing around the room. "We've got another full screen, another projector, plus double the lights." In addition, the have two smaller screens for smaller venues. It takes them two hours to set it all up and about 40 minutes to tear it down and repack.

They need to be fairly quick. Their next event was a grad dance in Whitehorse on Friday and another one in Pelly on Saturday.

They wouldn't have come as far as Dawson this trip, but another venue on the Yukon tour cancelled. That's when Charles Eshelman of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in got involved. Charles had booked an event in August two years ago, and he was on the company's list of contacts.

The week he had to set this up required a lot of cooperation from other players.

"I tried Gerties and the Oddfellows Hall, but they both had things going. So I tried Paul (Marceau) and he tried the school and they said we could do it here. I'm glad it worked out. It was good for the kids."

Dick and Buchanan are used to travelling light and swift.

"We travel with general expense money. For a trip like this our expenses will total probably half of everything we'll make. When we get back we're paid our salary on top of that.

"For tonight, our hotels are paid for, our food's paid for, gas is covered, and all the little miscellaneous expenses along the way. The vehicle is supplied and the equipment is supplied. We basically get in the driver's seat and go.

The company has 14 units across Canada, with 2 in B.C., 3 in Alberta, a few here and there and a big concentration of six or seven in Ontario, with a head office in Kitchener.

Dick's been on the Much Music trail for about 18 months now, and has been all over western Canada.

"Some guys have been doing it for 20 years."

His assistant, Buchanan, been doing for about 6 years, since he was ten. It was his brother, Aaron, who made the trip here in 1998.

"It was a highly recommended trip," Dick says. "It's a gorgeous drive up here."

As for the students, it was a full - short - three and half hours of jumping and bumping, punctuated by frequent trips outdoors to get some relief from the heat inside the ancillary room. Everyone appeared to have a good time and there were very few complaints, which is always a miracle at any event for teens.

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Volunteer Awards Presented - Four Will Come to Dawson Later

WHITEHORSE (May 1, 2000) - This Thursday May 4, Commissioner Judy Gingell will present Orville Smith of Teslin with a Commissioner's Award for Volunteer Service.

The award is given to recognize a person who has given many hours of unpaid work helping others.

Smith has been involved with many community organizations, including the Teslin Community Club, Curling Association,

Volunteer Fire Department, Minor Hockey Association and George Johnston Museum board, to name a few.

He has also sat on the Local Improvement District Board and later on the Village of Teslin Council. The experience and wisdom he brought to Council was invaluable. A few years ago, Smith was recognized by the Association of Yukon Communities for his long-standing commitment to community government.

Five other Yukoners, Olive Storey, Mimi Stehelin, Shelley MacCannell, Bill Commins and Al Ekholm received Commissioner's Volunteer Awards last month.

In June, Darcy Braga, Myrna Butterworth and John and Madeleine Gould, all from Dawson City, will receive their awards.

For more information on the Commissioner's Awards visit the Commissioner's website at www.gov.yk.ca/commissioner or call 667-5121.

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Couple Walks across Canada just for the Fun of It

by Dan Davidson


The Volksmarcher trio, Ole, HİlÜne and Don, pause outside the Downtown Hotel in Dawson before heading off to their trailer for the night. The next day they started for Stewart Crossing at about 7 a.m. Photo by Dan Davidson

Imagine this: a retired couple from Cumberland, Ontario, are walking 10,000 kilometres across the country, from Tuktoyaktuk to Saint John's, and they aren't raising money for anything.

Ole Olson and Hélène Viel just like to walk.

Ole is a retired armed force's surveyor and his wife is a registered nurse. Their plan is to touch all three of Canada's oceans. They started on March 30 at Tuktoyaktuk and arrived in Dawson on April 15, having averaged 50 miles during the 10 hour days on their first leg.

"We were going to start on April 1," Ole said, "but it was cold and our propane was a problem, so we decided we'd better hoof it quick."

Hélène was very impressed by the ice road from Tuktoyaktuk to Inuvik.

"The part of the ice road is very, very special because it is so cold. Every day you walk on the ice, your shoes turn like a block of ice. It's something that could be harsh on your body.

"And besides, what you see, it is that grandeur, that vast area where there is no sound, no bird, no noise of anything. You feel that the wind and the cold are the masters."

Ole is a long time Volksmarcher, having logged about 25,000 km over the years since 1987. Hélène has over 30,000.

Dawson wasn't actually on their route, explained driver and coordinator Don Simmons. They stopped a few dozen kilometres south of the Dempster Corner and backtracked to the Klondike capital to meet with members of the Royal Canadian Legion. The organization is assisting the husband and wife team logistically as they make their way across the country.

Their walk is sanctioned by the Canadian Volkssport Federation (of which Ole is the past president) and also sponsored by the Rock Rovers Volksmarch Club in Ottawa. There's no money involved in the sponsorship. Ole drew up a budget for the trip which included the costs at home during the time they would be away and figured it out at $30,000, not much more than it would have cost them to stay at home.

Members of the Volkssport organization can join in on any segment of the 10,000 trek and earn Volkssport credits for every 10 km segment they walk. Ole is a topographical surveyor and has mapped every 10 km section of the walk.

They plan to finish their walk in early December.

Hélène has visited Dawson in the past and was very pleased to be here again.

"It's so historic. It gives us a great feeling to be in this place."

With them on this leg of the trip is Don Simmons, the driver of the vehicle pulling their 29 foot trailer. He and seven other drivers will see Ole and Hélène across the country.

Ole says that's the secret to the whole process. He and Hélène worry about the walking, he understatedly describes as "labour intensive" and their coordinator worries about the snacks, tea and coffee breaks. meals and handling their home on wheels.

"It makes life very enjoyable."

"Everyone is welcome to join us during the walk," Hélène says. "Not only is it good exercise but you meet and share in friendship."

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Editorial: Happy Birthday to Us!

by Palma Berger
President, Literary Society of the Klondike

The "Klondike Sun" is now entering its twelfth year of production. Don't know about you but we feel pretty proud. It started out as a well-intentioned group who felt Dawson needed a newspaper and we were the ones to do it. "We" had no idea of the business side of things, the amount of equipment involved, the cost of same, the amount of WORK. We had to learn that writing was the easy part of newspaper production. Especially in those early days when we used simple computers and typewriters, and then cut the columns and hand pasted them down. We hand created ads. Now that was fun, but time consuming. Families grew accustomed to our getting home in the wee small hours of the morning on production week-ends.

It was a lot of work so we published only once a month. One big fat paper once a month.

Maybe that was why Conrad Black never approached us to buy us out. Too big.

But then with the advent of better computers we could go faster, and so printed every two weeks. This we continue to do. Still Conrad hasn't approached us. It was gratifying to hear on the news that he is now selling off his smaller papers. So we are safe from any take-overs.

Our advertisers and our volunteers have been our saviours. Our advertisers because they give us the funding to keep going. We had paid for all our equipment, except for one computer, ourselves. This month we have acquired desperately needed new equipment to replace the outdated stock we had, courtesy of the City of Dawson. Saved again.

The volunteers have been from the community, and from the underpaid office staff who have often ended up coming back to volunteer after they have gone on to better jobs.

We must mention the "Yukon News" who prints our paper and has been our guiding hand in newspaper production over the years. What to do? Where to shop? How to get it cheaper? What equipment will do this or that job? This and many more questions have they answered for us.

Many volunteers have passed through our doors. The work schedules prevent their continuing, they've gone back to school - or Mexico for the winter. Plus it is a big commitment to devote one's time every second week to the production of the newspaper.

We have followed the evolving of Dawson with more interest than most as we have watched and recorded events.

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