Working life in the Yukon has a rich, varied, and sometimes dangerous history.
From maintaining the vast trading networks of the First Nations from the Pacific Coast to the North Slope to the Gold Rush era’s fevered stampede of miners and settlers, hardy Yukoners made their living doing tasks in conditions that very few could imagine today.
Caution was abandoned to the icy winds and waters as competent and strong guides, traders, steamship operators, rail workers and would-be gold seekers met their end simply trying to do a job.
Later, in the race to build a network of land and air infrastructure to secure the Alaskan and Canadian northwest, safety took second shrift to speed. To drive the Alaska Highway from Suicide Hill to Deadman Creek is akin to opening a page on the stories of workers lost along the highway during construction.
Sadly, we continue to lose workers to workplace fatalities. Transportation, mining, construction, and even seemingly innocuous tasks take their toll when attention lapses occur or proper procedures are not followed.
The five pillars and partners of workplace safety are: communities, employers, workers, health-care professionals, and government.
On Monday night one of these pillars came through with a sizable commitment to workplace safety, as Whitehorse’s mayor and council voted unanimously to donate land for a permanent structure to remember those workers who have lost their lives.
This land will finally provide a focal point for Yukoners not just on the Day of Mourning on April 28, but every day of the year. Thanks to Mayor Dan Curtis and Whitehorse City Council, completion of the permanent memorial is that much closer.
Vikki Quocksister, president
Yukon Federation of Labour