Letter to the Editor

Outfitters aren’t saints In your editorial (It’s time to end the anarchy, the News, December 20), regarding the issues with Bonnet Plume…

Outfitters aren’t saints

In your editorial (It’s time to end the anarchy, the News, December 20), regarding the issues with Bonnet Plume Outfitters, you make several points at the outset.

You state the outfitters donate meat to the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation; they encourage clients to visit the wider territory; and they “support and love the territory (and) … consider it home.” And you then state, “you can’t take issue with that.”

In fact, I do take issue with that, in the context of the industry in which they operate, and in light of the damages they have caused in the two years they have operated here.

Outfitters have little choice but to donate meat: their clients are here to kill big game, and are generally not interested in exporting the meat.

Outfitters are required not to waste meat, so often “donation” is to their advantage. This is a benefit to elders and communities, but in the context of outfitting, it is not as laudable or generous as you (and the McKinnons) make it out to be.

As for promotion of the Yukon, many people, both residents and non-residents, do this — it’s free and easy to do. As a defence of unauthorized development it’s weak, at best.

As for supporting and loving the territory, they have a unique way of demonstrating that. They reside here only five months of the year, during our hunting season, while they profit from their outfitting concession.

So far, their demonstrated affection and assistance toward the economy has involved destruction and misappropriation of valuable exploration property and unlawful development of Crown land beside a designated Canadian heritage river.

I take issue with all of the above.

I take issue with the suggestion they are naive, or that naiveté is an excuse for illegal activity.

I take issue with their self-characterization as “a young couple with a dream.” Buying into an outfitting concession is big business — not a quaint family enterprise.

I take issue with the McKinnons accepting the profit and privilege of an outfitting business, but when criticized for their actions, reverting to the personal and failing to take responsibility in a businesslike manner.

None of their arguments address the fact that they destroyed another enterprise’s property to build some of their structures, and they failed to obtain written approval to build a permanent camp at Copper Point.

I am opposed to the new land-tenure policy for outfitters, and I am opposed to government actions that make it difficult for the public to obtain information about this policy.

I am certainly opposed to any process that provides for private land use but avoids triggering a public review.

However, I am also opposed to the suggestion that the McKinnons did not bring this particular issue about through their own actions, or that as businesspeople who use Yukon resources for profit, they can avoid responsibility on the basis that they are naive, or that they have the best interests of the territory in mind.

Anna Pugh

Whitehorse, Yukon

Editorial off the mark

What a nasty editorial: Chiefs must stop talking and start working, (the News, December 13).

Apparently Chief Mike Smith has touched a nerve.

Smith says that Kwanlin Dun First Nation will pass legislation early in 2007 to begin the process of drawing down education and establishing its own school where students will feel more at home, won’t be alienated by the system and will graduate.

Richard Mostyn writes that “in the 21st century, the needs of native children are no different that those of non-natives. They must exit the school system with skills that allow them to succeed in the wider world. Period.”

But who is Mostyn to decide what First Nations students need to learn and what their needs are?

Wouldn’t that be a decision better left to their families, their leadership, and the people who care for and about them?

In 1987, the Joint Commission on Indian Education and Training established by the Yukon government and Council for Yukon Indians produced the Kwiya report, subtitled Towards a New Partnership in Education.

The report recommended that the governments of Canada and Yukon officially recognize equality of opportunity in education for Indian people.

And that the government of Yukon, in partnership with Indian people, initiate specific legislative, policy and structural reforms of Yukon’s education system.

But 20 years later, little of substance has changed.

There’s been lots of talk about education since1987, a new education act in 1990, and an attempted education act review.

Now we have an education reform process.

Mostyn points to some culturally relevant offerings in a couple of schools where programming has been “tweaked.”

But as much as Mostyn might trumpet the successes of the existing public school system, and not to deny that there are successes, Education department stats show that achievement levels for First Nations students are consistently and substantially lower than for non-First Nations students.

Chief Smith says that Kwanlin Dun students don’t read and they can’t write when they graduate.

He also says that there’s been no meaningful consultation between YTG and Kwanlin Dun First Nation on the construction of a new school in Copper Ridge.

Other places in Canada, and internationally, have seen positive outcomes when aboriginal people took control of their children’s education, with more or less public involvement.

Look, for example, at Chief Atahm School in Chase, BC, Cree Language of Instruction programs in northern Quebec, Joe Duquette High School in Saskatoon, the Papahana Kaiapuni program in Hawaii, Rock Point and Rough Rock community schools in Arizona, and Rakaumanga School and other Maori immersion programs in New Zealand.

Smith says a Kwanlin Dun school would be voluntary for its members to attend and open to other Yukon students interested in enrolling.

So what he’s proposing doesn’t mean an apartheid or a segregated system. But it does mean that Kwanlin Dun people get to determine what’s best for themselves and for their children.

Got a problem with that, Richard?

Joe Binger


Grateful for kindness

A belated thank you to all the individuals and real organizations who fight the good fight with passion and wisdom to protect sensitive places and spaces for the well-being of all life.

While others have yet to realize the “critical” connection.

And to the Humane Society’s care for animals in need — to Andrea Lemphers for your never-ending love and wisdom for creatures you speak and act upon for.

To Randi Jestin and others in Beaver Creek who went to the aid of the cats and Kelly Magill for also walking the talk for your donation of “real” pet food for the neglected and thus “abused” hungry dogs in Whitehorse.

You have all made the world a better place to live.

Mike Grieco


 Shame on us

Outfitters have a huge role to play in the Yukon. They always have. And here we are fussing ourselves silly over a few small utilitarian cabins that are only there to service a flourishing industry.

It has always been an outfitter’s right — in fact, a responsibility — to treat their clients decently.

The reason there is no established policy for obtaining permission for the odd structure is that no one has ever thought it necessary to fuss with the added bureaucracy needed to manage it.

So why start now? Why single out one outfitter and say, “Gotcha”? Why even fret about these temporary buildings?

It isn’t as if they are homes; they are far from that. It isn’t because someone has found a loop-hole to get free land in an idyllic spot to grab for his own; they are only used when needed.

Outfitters are business people. They address the needs of their clients, and that is all that is in their heads when they build a cabin here or there.

Let’s give them some room. Let them manage their business properly. They have so far.

Trappers also face the same demands. They could not survive on their trap lines without well-spaced cabins in strategic locations on their trap lines. Leave them alone, too.

Both outfitters and trappers manage their rights as an enduring business. Now is not the time — nor is there a need — to place a huge additional burden on any of them.

If there is an urgent need for micromanagement of what and where outfitters erect their shelters, let’s set out a clear policy up front.

Let’s be smarter than we have been over this one small cook shack. It’s obvious it has no purpose other than to support an outfitting concession.

Dave Robertson