The Greyhound bus arrived in Whitehorse a couple of Sundays ago around 4 a.m. pretty much on schedule. The weary passengers quickly gathered personal effects and then found their bags at the side of the bus. Some had people waiting for them. A couple of cabs took others to their final destinations in town.
The terminal stays open for only about an hour as luggage, freight and other details of the long journey up from Dawson Creek are attended to. As always, though, a couple of folk had no one there to greet them and nowhere to go. The journey’s orphans were directed to haul their bags to the 24-hour Tim Hortons a block and a half away at the corner of Second Avenue and Ray Street. There, a coffee and a doughnut carefully nursed could see them through until morning came to town. At a decent hour they could then set about their business.
One of the arrivals had travelled all the way up from Texas. Down on the borderlands with Mexico this migrant had not found the opportunity and security he craved and headed north. At an employment centre in Calgary he chanced across a fellow who told him that there were jobs for the picking in the Yukon. On only that sliver of hope plus the money for a bus ticket and a small grubstake of savings to help him start out, he headed our way.
An annual hockey tournament that weekend had filled up most accommodations locally. Faced with this unanticipated factor he found a bed at the Salvation Army shelter the only viable option for his first night in town. Later, a hostel provided a place to stay that he could afford as he looked for work and a more permanent lodgings.
When I last saw him, he had discovered the library and its computers, the immigrant centre in the AFY building at Fourth and Strickland, noon day soup at the Salvation Army, the employment centre and even the volunteer bureau. With his educational background, well honed survival skills and some luck it looked like he might just find a place here in our community that provides the security and future he longs for.
Others among us may not be so lucky.
Poverty, the lack of affordable housing, inadequate education, physical or mental disabilities, unemployment and a host of other factors can exclude an individual and those that depend on them from full participation in the benefits of our society. How do we make it easier to include them?
Over the last two days a forum and symposium have been held focusing on social inclusion and poverty reduction. In hosting these the Yukon government seeks to develop a strategy that “will focus on ensuring government programs and services are working together to pave the way for a more inclusive Yukon society.”
We must all know by now that building a more equitable society where societal benefits are spread widely means a healthier society. Less poverty, less violence, less marginalization and less crime ultimately lowers health-care costs, saves on justice and law enforcement bills and generally achieves the laudable goal of a more productive, secure population. Social exclusion comes with high costs. Social inclusion offers us the potential of a much richer Yukon in all senses.
For more information on what others are saying and doing to promote these goals here and across the country have a look at the online links in the Yukon Social Inclusion and Poverty Reduction Strategy newsletter at http://www.abetteryukon.ca/localnews.php.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.