Authorities powered out
The territory wide power outage we experienced last night should be a wakeup call to YTG, Whitehorse and service providers in the Yukon.
Listening to Doug Caldwell on CBC this morning, as he pointed fingers and sluffed off blame to consumers, got my blood boiling.
It wasn’t just his pompous, condescending tone, but also the blatant misinformation he spewed.
He went on to say how Yukoners should be prepared to be ‘self-reliant’ for 72 hours. I know that many homes do have back-up wood heat or propane fireplaces, but I am willing to bet that just as many don’t have any secondary backup heat source.
Here, in Copper Ridge we were without power for about six hours.
Further to that, we had no telephone service, something to which Caldwell seemed oblivious.
Going a night without lights isn’t a big deal; going a night without heat is a bit scary as a parent of two preschool children.
Caldwell also mentioned that page 51 of the telephone book has an Emergency Preparedness Plan — funny thing is that it was written by the governments of the NWT and Canada, leading one to believe that the Yukon government and Whitehorse don’t even have a plan.
Should the outage have continued for 72 hours (as Caldwell set as a baseline), I can bet that millions of dollars in property damage would have occurred as pipes froze.
In that 72 hours, people may resort to desperate measures — doing things they wouldn’t normally do, like running propane camping stoves in their homes, potentially poisoning themselves with carbon monoxide and maybe even burning their homes down.
They couldn’t call for help because their phones were down.
These may all sound like extremes, but they are all very plausible.
Given that there is an entire branch of government — the Emergency Measures Organization — it owes a responsibility to the citizens.
Sunday night, they were invisible. Vague snippets on CBC radio every half hour from the Yukon Electrical spokes-bot were of little comfort to those who sat in their homes at the mercy of others.
In a post 9-11 Yukon, you’d figure that authorities would have come up with something in the past five years, wouldn’t you?
Allow me, as a layperson, to come up with a couple easy, relatively cheap solutions:
Purchase a FM transmitter that broadcasts on 91.1 FM (an easy to remember frequency) this would allow EMO, RCMP and government(s) to update citizens in a situation like September 11, the events that unfolded last night or during some other incident.
Designate schools (most have backup diesel generators) as possible safe havens where people can get warm.
Legislate that service providers have backup plans to maintain essential services for electricity and telephone (especially 9-11 services). Ensure they test their plans monthly.
A little more than a year from now, Whitehorse will be on the world’s stage (OK, maybe Canada’s stage) hosting the Canada Winter Games. Imagine the potential fallout should Yukon plunge into darkness (for 72 hours) in the middle of that.
To Yukon Energy, Yukon Electric, Northwestel, YTG and Whitehorse: Get off your collective arses and ensure something like this, or worse, doesn’t happen again.
Consider the dogs
I found myself very disturbed after reading the story about Yukon Quest musher Kyla Boivin in Friday’s Yukon News.
What was particularly disturbing was the brief mention about Boivin having three members of her dog team killed (this past December) in a collision with an automobile while she was training the team.
I wasn’t surprised, however, that your relatively new sports reporter, Ian Stewart, did not delve further into the circumstances of the tragedy.
The Yukon News, like most media sources in the territory, treats sled dogs as simple ‘tools of the trade’ in this travesty of a sport known as the Yukon Quest.
If the Yukon had stronger animal-cruelty laws, this incident would have been fully investigated to determine the levels of responsibility of the parties involved.
Stewart might also have asked mushers William Kleedehn and Catherine Pinard if they were entirely comfortable providing Boivin with dogs from their kennel.
The reason I bring this up is that in former Yukon News journalist Adam Killick’s book about the 2001 Quest (Racing the White Silence: On the Trail of the Yukon Quest), there is a passage (pages 154 and 155) about Boivin’s perceived lack of control over her dog team.
Along the trail that year, her dogs had: 1) devoured the personal food supply of a fellow musher, handicapping him for a 200-kilometre stretch of the race; and 2) devoured most of the dog food supply of another musher, handicapping his dogs.
“Sorry,” Boivin is “sheepishly” quoted as saying in the book.
“I have a bit of a hard time controlling them sometimes.”
Because Stewart and other Yukon News reporters seem to have a hard time asking the occasional tough question of Quest mushers (whatever their level of experience or gender may be), as a humane-minded member of the Yukon public, it would be negligent for me not to do so.
Pain and hope
I’ve been prompted to write as a result of an experience I shared with a young lady whose 18-month-old daughter disappeared briefly in Wal-Mart.
Our staff did the search and I was able to bring mother and daughter back together.
The mother was shaken, and she and I had a good cry together. You see, all that experience did was trigger my own emotions over my missing musician husband, David Gillmor.
It’s been 62 days now and not a word about his whereabouts. It’s an intense experience to have to live through.
Each time the phone rings, I am hoping it could be David calling home or someone who knows where he is or has seen and talked to him.
The same goes for the rest of the family who live out of town.
Life can change any one of us in the blink of an eye.
I am in constant contact with the RCMP regarding anything new in the investigation.
I can’t thank the RCMP enough for their compassion towards this situation. They do a thankless job and I feel it’s important to give them the credit they deserve because they do find a lot of people who go missing.
The keyboards have been silenced for the moment and David’s wonderful energy not being felt within this community has left a hollow feeling within a lot of people here.
I just don’t want anyone to forget that he is still out there somewhere and to close their ears and eyes off to any information that could help bring him back to me, family and friends.
People who witnessed the special love we share know why I will not rest till my husband is found.
Strange as this may sound, it’s amazing how when I share my experience with others that something can begin to heal within themselves over situations they have walked through themselves.
That’s what life is all about. We can’t take anything for granted. We can get our wake-up calls even through the experiences of others if we are listening and hearing what’s being said.
I keep hearing what a strong woman I am to be making it through this difficult passage, yet there are times when I feel very weak inside and, yes, still sometimes without much hope especially as the time ticks by.
The people of this community make the difference and carry hope for me when I am not that strong.
When I am strong, I take my hope and share that with others who need it, like that young lady in Wal-Mart who needed a shoulder to lean on and cry on.
Whitehorse community, I do hope you realize how precious you are because if this were happening in any other place in this country, the support of the whole community is very slim.
This is a rare gift to be cherished and I feel honoured to call this place home.
I have only been in Whitehorse four and a half years now and I am just so grateful to have met so many beautiful souls.
Having no blood family here to support me, this community has rallied around to help lift me up in this experience and I can’t thank you all enough.
The search continues… If you have any information that would help us locate David, could you please contact the RCMP at 667-5555.
A few have come forward with information already.
I want to personally thank them for their participation in this experience. May 2006 bring you all peace, happiness, prosperity and joy in your lives.
Katherine Mary Gillmor