taming the wild

Well, at least one fellow has been taken care of. Thanks to the kindness of strangers, Allen Kempel has come in from the cold. You might remember Kempel.

Well, at least one fellow has been taken care of.

Thanks to the kindness of strangers, Allen Kempel has come in from the cold.

You might remember Kempel. He’s the 51-year-old guy who came to the Yukon from Alberta with Bandit, his canine companion, in tow.

He’d hoped to live off the land, a little like Christopher McCandless, the idealist chronicled in Jon Krakauer’s Into the Wild.

With government assistance, he rented a barebones cabin outside town. But he had a falling out with the cabin owners, losing his damage deposit, rent and lodging in one fell swoop.

Whitehorse’s vacancy rate is 1.7 per cent and its median rent is $750 a month. And when the Yukon statistics branch last surveyed the market in March, there was not a single bachelor apartment available in the city. A run-down room at the Chilkoot Inn starts at $900 a month.

Suffice to say, it’s tough to find an affordable place to live these days.

Kempel and the pregnant Bandit wound up huddled in a drafty school bus, much like McCandless. They kept warm by scrounging twigs and small deadfall from city greenbelts to feed the occasional meagre fire.

The bus wasn’t a great base to look for work – Kempel lacked a shower, smelled like creosote, wood smoke and puppy (Bandit gave birth to seven pups) and he had no phone or fixed address.

A 20-year-old criminal record didn’t help.

Kempel fed his dogs and himself on $335 a month from Social Services.

“My past is a little shaky and my future is definitely shaky,” he said.

But Whitehorse residents stepped up.

Amazingly generous people brought him bottles of water. And a cord of wood (the wood guy even brought a chainsaw and bucked it up for Kempel). And food and kibble. And money.

Some bought him lunch. He was offered work. And a cabin, where he has now settled down with Bandit.

“My deepest gratitude to all the kind souls who displayed such great Yukon spirit,” wrote Kempel in a letter he brought to the paper this week.

Indeed, the compassion shown this hard-luck case by so many generous residents is truly remarkable.

And because of it, Kempel’s future is brighter.

A homeless soul has a warm place to stay, a base from which to seek work and build a life.

That’s one down. Now there’s only 60, or so, to go …

The special bonus edit…

Mike Nixon should give Na-Cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn a call.


Well, Nixon has publicly announced he supports the Yukon Party government’s position on protecting the Peel.

That’s remarkable because, so far, after exhaustive scientific study and public consultation the government has not told the public what its position on the Peel Watershed is.

But Nixon apparently knows.

Which means the Whitehorse Centre candidate has information even the chiefs of the First Nations with a stake in the Peel have been denied.

You might remember a couple of weeks back Mines Minister Patrick Rouble snubbed Mervyn and Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Eddie Taylor after they drove hundreds of kilometres for a scheduled meeting on the Peel.

The two aboriginal leaders were seeking clarity on the Yukon government’s position on the Peel. What they got was a ministerial assistant announcing the Big Cheese was too busy to chat.

To be clear, New Democrat Liz Hanson supports protecting 80 per cent of the Peel.

Liberal Kirk Cameron supports protecting 80 per cent of the Peel.

Nixon supports the Yukon Party government’s position.

Which is understandable – obedience, loyalty and all that.

But what is the Yukon Party government’s position on the Peel Watershed, exactly?

Mervyn wants to know.

In fact, we all do.