in the North
Open letter to Jim Prentice, minister of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada:
The Yukon Conservation Society is concerned by Ottawa’s awarding of oil and gas exploration rights in areas which were selected in response to the 2007 Beaufort Sea/Mackenzie Delta Call for Bids.
The conservation society calls upon Canada to freeze work within these oil and gas award areas until such time as the full environmental impacts, both short term and long term, have been thoroughly understood.
Environmental assessments must be done of the areas in question prior to work commencing.
In addition, the need of the development must be reconciled with Canada’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The areas awarded include regions within the Beaufort Sea off Herschel Island Territorial Park and Ivvavik National Park in the Yukon and the Mackenzie Delta region near the Kendall Island Bird Sanctuary in the NWT.
Information on these areas is available from the INAC website at http://www.ainc-inac.gc.ca/oil/act/Cal/beau2007/winbid/07_07_e.html.
It is unclear what, if any, environmental assessment has been done of these areas prior to this nomination call.
As you are no doubt aware, northern eco-systems, including the ocean portions, operate on a vast scale yet are very sensitive. Even a minor industrial intrusion can have untold environmental consequences.
To offer large areas of the North to oil and gas companies and then hope to mitigate afterwards the effects of industrializing a very sensitive ecosystem is the height of folly.
Environmental assessment must come first.
Opening more regions of ecologically sensitive areas to fossil fuel development, while at the same time trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, shows an inherent contradiction in policy.
The Canadian North is experiencing the effects of climate change first and worst, yet the very department that includes in its mandate “to preserve, maintain, protect and rehabilitate the northern environment” is assisting in a resource extraction and exportation policy that is the antithesis of this.
The Yukon Conservation Society respectfully asks what the Canadian government’s vision is for the oil and gas industry is the North, and what that vision is based upon.
The society calls upon Canada to freeze all activity within these oil and gas award areas until such time as the full environmental impacts, both short term and long term, have been thoroughly understood.
Environmental assessments must be done of the areas in question prior to the nomination process, and the need of the development must be reconciled with Canada’s commitments to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The Yukon Conservation Society looks forward to your early written response on this urgent matter.
Lewis Rifkind, energy co-ordinator
Yukon Conservation Society Whitehorse
Once upon a time,
When I worked at city hall many years ago, one of my positions was secretary to the planning board.
For those of you who don’t remember, the planning board was made up of a cross-section of citizens from Whitehorse.
One city councillor was appointed to the board to represent mayor and council. The rest were ordinary people interested in helping direct the growth of Whitehorse.
The city provided administrative and technical assistance to this board from its various departments.
When variance or rezoning applications came before the planning board it would make a decision whether to approve or deny the application and then forward its recommendation to mayor and council.
The mayor and council nearly always accepted the recommendation of the planning board.
When an application received no — or very little — opposition from affected and surrounding neighbours, and, provided city administration could not foresee any long-term implications from the rezoning request, a recommendation approving the rezoning was forwarded to mayor and council.
If accepted by council, the rezoning application would then go through the formal council process.
If, however, there was opposition to the rezoning application from surrounding or affected neighbours, it was usual that a recommendation to deny the application be forwarded to mayor and council, who in turn accepted the recommendation to deny the request for rezoning.
Unlike today, the residents opposing the rezoning were not expected to provide scientific reports or long written compositions justifying their position.
They weren’t called names and they weren’t treated like ignorant peasants who didn’t know what was really good for them.
They were not told that these proposed uses were quite acceptable in other parts of Canada so should be acceptable here too.
The mayors and councils of that time seemed to feel that Whitehorse residents had a right to decide what uses were acceptable in their own neighbourhoods.
What our current council seems to forget is that the rezoning applicants are asking to circumvent or contravene the existing zoning bylaw.
They are proposing a business or use that was not and is not intended for that neighbourhood.
When people buy houses the only way they have of determining the actual value of the home with respect to their desired lifestyle is by the zoning of that property.
There isn’t much point to even having a zoning bylaw if city council isn’t prepared to abide by it.
The mayors and councils of long ago would be shocked to know that, even with numerous presentations at public meetings as well as a petition of more than 100 names opposing the crematorium rezoning request, for whatever reasons, this opposition was simply dismissed by our mayor and council.
The rezoning to allow the crematorium has been approved and even encouraged by council if one can trust quotes from the newspapers.
No wonder so many people here feel that it’s not worth showing up to vote or voice opinions at city hall. How sad.
Having a planning board helped keep politics out of the rezoning application process.
Maybe that’s why city council got rid of it.
Council out of step
In my opinion, Whitehorse city council threw caution to the winds when its members voted ‘yes’ to a human waste incinerator in Porter Creek on July 23.
Despite growing concern regarding the placing of crematoriums in neighbourhoods across Canada, the United States and around the world, our council said, ‘Go ahead’.
I hope the Yukon does get a crematorium as cremation makes sense.
But why are we placing this industrial type waste disposal business in neighbourhoods?
I don’t get it.
workers are tops
I am writing in support of Dawson City’s volunteer ambulance workers.
Before coming to work here in Dawson City’s health centre, my wife, Anne, fulfilled nursing duties at numerous health stations in the Yukon, NWT and Ontario.
She says Dawson City is the best community she has ever worked in and she says that that is due, at least in part, to Dawson’s skilled and dedicated ambulance team dash a group that she says are the very best she has ever worked with.
For my part, I have noted several occasions where the skill level and commitment of the ambulance workers here have helped to ease the stress of Anne’s work.
You may not know, but the duties of Dawson’s nursing station are not limited to the Klondike area.
This health centre covers west from the border of Alaska to Eagle Plains. That means that an emergency such as a rollover on the Dempster Highway several hours out of town must be attended to by highly skilled first responders.
In the absence of ambulance workers, at least one nurse must leave Dawson and go to such an accident, especially during the winter dark when helicopters cannot fly.
That circumstance will generally leave the health centre short of nursing staff. This not only has an immediate negative impact on the city’s healthcare, it also produces numerous aftershocks, not the least of which is nurse burnout.
There were times in other communities when I accompanied my wife on ambulance calls because she was the only responder and I feared for her safety.
Dawson’s crack ambulance service relieved that fear.
However, if our ambulance team remains unsupported by government and is unable to return, then I shudder to think of what Dawson may become.
(At the risk of belabouring the obvious, please note that burned-out nurses generally leave high-stress communities. As the worldwide nursing shortage continues, the Yukon government would do well to keep that fact in mind.)
Suffice to say that our community ambulance workers while of immense value to patients are also essential to the extremely competitive market for nurse recruitment and retention.
So, the capable and eager ambulance team here has improved quality of life in ways few Dawsonites have ever known. Perhaps it’s time these volunteers were recognized for that.