what are friends for

Somehow among all the papers my mother had filed away for me, she had kept a Grade 3 map-drawing exercise. My teacher, Mrs Richardson, had asked us draw the map of Canada.

Somehow among all the papers my mother had filed away for me, she had kept a Grade 3 map-drawing exercise.

My teacher, Mrs Richardson, had asked us draw the map of Canada. I faithfully drew in all the provinces and then two territories, their capitals and major geographic features like Hudson Bay on a sheet of lined paper.

At the time as a kid growing up in Missouri more than five decades ago, I never could have imagined that I would spend my entire adult life in Canada, marry, raise my family and become a Yukoner. Some foretelling of this future might have possible.

Little Canadian threads of life experiences from family wove into mine. A great-aunt left Illinois to settle with her farmer husband near Lloydminister, Saskatchewan in the early 1900s. My father worked as a guide for the Brewster’s in Banff in the late 1920s and early 1930s. My own experience with a Canadian-American youth project and then subsequent choice of McGill University for graduate school, though, turned me definitively northward.

The Yukon holds many stories like mine. Our Yukon Bureau of Statistics counted over 3000 of us or about 10 per cent of all Yukoners as immigrants in 2006. Some 600 of that number were born in the United States, representing the largest single immigrant group by country. This is not news to anyone who has been here for awhile. Our Yukon history has been coloured by folk from the southern 48 states.

What native of Oklahoma has a creek, post, mountain range and trail here named after him here? What Californian with the middle name Washington is credited as a co-discoverer of the famous gold on Rabbit Creek? You must know the Chicagoan turned Yukoner who was the second woman elected to the Parliament of Canada. How about the Missourian who organized the first commercial airline in the Yukon and has a road in Porter Creek named after him? I will let you think about these for a few lines, though you probably don’t need to do so.

As a Canadian/American just like other immigrants, a deep awareness of two cultures develops over time. This dual sensitivity makes it particularly irksome when the rank odors of the partisan political debate now going on down south over President Obama’s attempt at reforming their woefully inadequate health-care system badly distort the achievements of our own.

Comments like those of the Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in an upper house speech last month showed how our experience is used as a whipping boy. “Americans don’t want a government-run system that puts bureaucrats between patients and doctors” stated McConnell. Or “The American people will not stand for rationed health care,” as Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl chimed in, reports Reuters.

Right now the United States needs all the help it can get to mend a badly flawed economic system that leaves tens of millions of its citizens on the margins of society. This is not only true of their health care but also of housing and education not to mention their banking system. As friends, maybe we should be speaking out a bit more. Granted our health care and social service systems remain works in progress, they do offer some real positive alternatives for consideration. Those of us who have lived on both sides of the line should know.

Jack Dalton, George W. Carmacks, Martha L. Black and Clyde Wann respectively are only a very few of the immigrants who have left a mark on our territory. Remember Captain Mayo from Maine?

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Namaste notes

Saturday, July 11 – World Population Day, the theme for 2009 is Fight Poverty: Educate Girls.

Sunday, July 12 – 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Mark 6: 7-13.

Monday, July 13 – Ulambana or Ancestor Day celebrates the reunion of family ancestors with the living for various Buddhist communities.

Thursday, July 16 – The Atomic Age begins with the detonation of the first nuclear weapon in New Mexico in 1945.