Letter to the Editor

Co-op wants to talk Open letter to Rudy Couture, chair Yukon Housing Corporation board of directors: We wish to add our collective voice to the…

Co-op wants to talk

Open letter to Rudy Couture, chair Yukon Housing Corporation board of directors:

We wish to add our collective voice to the growing number of concerned Yukoners asking about the future of the Whitehorse Housing Co-operative.

At a time when concerns around affordable housing and sustainable solutions are increasing, we ask why Yukon Housing Corporation has advised co-operative members of their intention to seek a court order transferring Yukon’s only co-operative’s asset to Yukon Housing Corporation.

We ask why there is a move to end the Whitehorse Housing Co-operative, which has a proven record of sustainability since 1988.

Yes, we understand there were problems with the co-operative’s financial management in the fall of 2003, when you were temporarily appointed as the receiver-manager of the co-operative’s assets.

We also understand the co-operative board of directors has remained an active association throughout the receivership, and are in good standing as a society.

It has the support from the co-operative Housing Federation of Canada and the Federal Co-operative Stabilization Fund to return the governance to the co-operative members.

Receivership is a time where a group or organization is given support and assistance to return to their ownership and responsibilities.

Without getting into legalities or accusations of conflict of interest, our main concern is around support for a viable solution that considers the positive benefits of co-operative housing — where there is a sense of community and dignity, provision for democratic decisions and certainty.

Forcing 12 families, including single parents, people with disabilities, a mix of those paying market value and others requiring subsidies — a well established community living in stable, affordable homes —into a market where options are limited at best does not make sense.

Once again, we ask for a public explanation on the housing corporation’s move to transfer the assets of a viably proven co-operative to the corporation.

We urge you to meet directly with the elected representatives of the co-operative so they may present their case and discuss a return of governance to the co-operative members.

Sue Christianson and Jo-Anne Smith, co-chairs Whitehorse Regional Women’s Committee Public Service Alliance of Canada

Focus on tourism

I, as grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, recently facilitated a meeting between representatives of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation and Neil McCrank, Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Chuck Strahl’s Special Representative.

McCrank was in the Yukon on a fact-finding mission.

As you may recall, he was asked last year by Strahl to explore ways to reduce regulatory red tape for the petroleum and mining companies that want to do work in the three territories.

Yukon First Nations welcome economic development, he was told in no uncertain terms by me and LSCFN councillor George Skookum and Elder Johnnie Sam, but not if it means long-term ecological damage to our land, water or air, as this could compromise the health, safety and security of First Nation citizens.

To underscore this point, it was noted the Council of Yukon First Nations’  constitution clearly states that “The Creator placed our several tribes and nations on Mother Earth to act as stewards of the land.”

In particular, the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation representatives talked with McCrank about the possible environmental impacts of the open-pit, heap-leach operation Western Copper Corporation wants to build 38 kilometres northwest of Carmacks, on the edge of their traditional territory.

This project is so controversial and experimental the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board has decided to bring in a special consultant to review the conflicting information brought to its attention during the screening process.

Opponents fear the technology that will be used to separate the copper from the rock will leach toxic heavy metals into the environment for decades after the deposit is depleted and the operation is shut down.

McCrank was also told the Yukon needs to focus on areas where it has a strategic competitive advantage, and mining is not necessarily the best road to economic self-sufficiency, social stability and environmental responsibility.

First Nations, including those in the Yukon, are becoming increasingly convinced that ecotourism and cultural tourism are more likely to build strong communities and healthy citizens than the boom-and-bust cycles of resource extraction.

They have not benefited significantly from mining here in the past and are not convinced the situation will be that much different in the future, despite the lofty promises they keep hearing from industry and government.

According to the latest figures, the World Tourism Organization says that ecotourism — commonly used to describe any form of tourism in natural surroundings — today accounts for 20 per cent of total international tourism.

The WTO goes on to forecast that, worldwide, international tourists will increase from 613 million in 1997 to 1.6 billion by 2020 and earnings will jump from $443 billion in 1997 to more than $2 trillion by 2020.

The Yukon, and in particular Yukon First Nations, should start strategically positioning themselves right now to go after a large chunk of that money.

We all know the Yukon’s most precious resources are its pristine beauty and scenic grandeur.

So instead of pursuing economic activities that everyone knows will degrade and debase these natural treasures, we all need to think more strategically and imaginatively.

Will ecotourism and cultural tourism solve all our economic problems? Certainly not. But they deserve to get much more attention than they do. And this is the key message we hope McCrank will take back to Strahl.

grand chief Andy Carvill, Council of Yukon First Nations

Rookie musher displays more than luck

Re Quest organization broke its own rules, (the News, February 29):

In your article on my thoughts on the last Quest, there’s one thing I would like to straighten out: “Jean-denis Britten managed to make it to Chena because he was following another team.”

What I said is that at this critically unmarked spot (where some teams ended up on the Chena road), it was only luck if you can see this marker 100 feet away in the willows, from the right turn.

I don’t think it’s pure luck if he made it to Chena … and then to Whitehorse. For the past 12 months I’m in “the front seat” to see how dedicated and focused a musher he is and he was my first pick for the Challenge of the North Award … but this is an other story.

Paul Geoffrion

Annie Lake