Letter to the Editor

‘Teacher! What was the name of the dead sled dog?’ Open letter to Yukon education authorities, Yukon politicians and parents of Yukon…

‘Teacher! What was the name of the dead sled dog?’

Open letter to Yukon education authorities, Yukon politicians and parents of Yukon school children:

On February 5th, I was informed by a colleague about an incident that took place in a Grade 6 classroom in Whitehorse the previous day.

My colleague, who moved to Whitehorse from the South within the last year, told me that his or her child was upset by the child’s teacher, during a lesson about the Yukon Quest, telling the class about an encounter involving a dead sled dog the previous weekend.

Apparently, the teacher and his or her partner (dog mushers themselves) were looking after another musher’s dog yard, and the teacher’s partner came across the dead dog when he or she went out to feed the dogs in the morning.

The teacher described the scene to the children, about the dog being found half out of his or her doghouse, the dog’s body partly covered by snow.

Why would a teacher fill his or her young students’ heads with this disturbing picture?

One of the questions asked by several children was, “what was the name of the dog?” The teacher reportedly did not know the dog’s name.

Other questions that come up are:

How did the dog die? Did the dog succumb to the bitter cold spell that had descended on the Yukon? Did the dog become strangled at the end of a chain? How old was this dog and what was his or her story?

What was done with the dog’s body? Was the dog treated respectfully in death, if not in life? Did any other parents complain to the teacher as my colleague did?

The teacher was not happy to be at the receiving end of the complaint by this parent I know who spoke up with concern about his or her child.

The teacher used the old “these are working dogs, not pets” line, which absolutely did not wash.

Since moving here, my colleague took the time and effort to learn about Yukon sled dog exploitation and cruelty, and made it perfectly clear to the offending teacher, that his or her family was against the Yukon Quest, and its promotion in the classroom.

The parents of this child did not appreciate their offspring being indoctrinated into ‘adopting a Yukon Quest musher,’ writing fan e-mails to mushers along the trail, or hearing Yukon Quest race announcements over the PA system during school days.

A few years ago, I called the (then) president of the Yukon Teachers’ Association to complain about the Quest being promoted to schoolchildren. I was told that I had to complain to the individual offending teacher, then (if not satisfied) to complain to the school principal, then to the Yukon Department of Education, THEN to the Yukon Teachers’ Association.

A year or so after this, I saw that the association was mentioned in a ‘thank you ad’ to Quest supporters, published in the Whitehorse Star newspaper.

The Quest is widely taught to Yukon students and exported over the internet to students Outside. (The teacher who co-ordinates the YesNet Student Quest school program is a longtime Quest volunteer and ex-board member).

Since then, I looked at the biographies of the governing party in the Yukon and saw that:

One member is a past president of the Quest; one is a local veterinarian who has been involved in the Quest, Iditarod and other races; the Speaker of the Yukon Legislature is an ex-chairman of the Quest; the minister of Education has been a Quest volunteer, and one government minister had been, until recently, part-owner of a family sled-dog tour operation near Whitehorse.

The current minister of Tourism and Culture Elaine Taylor, whose department is a big promoter of the Quest and dog-mushing industry, is (ironically) listed as having volunteered at Humane Society Yukon.

Local animal advocate Mike Grieco had had a letter — Quest kills — published in the Yukon News on March 9, 2007, in which he took the aforementioned politicians to task, asking them to justify their support for a race that kills and injures sled dogs.

No reply was ever received, which is apparently standard operating procedure by these politicians and by Quest officials themselves.

If Yukon society deems it acceptable that promotion of the Quest and the Yukon dog-mushing industry belongs in Yukon classrooms, our children should be taught the whole story, not just part of it.

They should learn about the culling of unwanted dogs and puppies who are ‘collateral damage’ from this race and from the mushing industry.

They should learn that very few of their mushing heroes have a lifelong commitment to their dogs. They should learn about the suffering and deaths of the dogs on the Quest trail and the real lives the dogs endure in their dog yards.

They should learn that their political leaders use sled dogs as a symbol to promote the Yukon without providing any legislated protection for the dogs.

They should know about the use of dogs for financial gain and ego satisfaction, whether the dogs belong to Quest mushers or sled dog tour operators.

Some of the politicians (territorial, municipal, and First Nations) should sit in at the back of the class and do some learning themselves.

The children in this class should know more of the story of this dog, be shown a picture (if one is available) of the dog when it was alive and be told its name.

This incident took place in Whitehorse Elementary School. Permission from my colleague and his or her brave and intelligent child was obtained before writing this letter.

Terry Cumming, SledDogWatchdog.com, Whitehorse

Pulling together in winter

During the recent cold snap, I was reminded of true northern hospitality — folks helping each other out in times of need.

My sincere thanks to: NAPA Auto Parts, Al Jackson, Terry Buckle, Gabe, Stuart and various members of Moving Parts Theatre, Grizzly Cabs, Jordan D’Avignon, and the mysterious Boxwood Cr. snow remover.

Cate Innish

Whitehorse

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

A draft plan has been released by the Dawson Regional Use Planning commission on June 15. Julien Gignac/Yukon News
Draft plan released by the Dawson Regional Land Use Planning Commission

Dawson Regional Land Use Commission releases draft plan, Government of Yukon withdraws additional lands from mineral staking in the planning region

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Let them live in trailers

“I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city… Continue reading

X
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for June 18, 2021.… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs nine new COVID-19 cases, 54 active cases

More CEMA enforcement officers have been recruited, officials say

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read