Alex Morrison remembered as ‘deal maker and peace maker’

One of Alex Morrison's greatest achievements in life was breaking a 30-year-addiction to drugs and alcohol, making his struggles public and inspiring Kaska youth.

One of Alex Morrison’s greatest achievements in life was breaking a 30-year-addiction to drugs and alcohol, making his struggles public and inspiring Kaska youth.

“I’m going to tell you what I’ve been through if it can help others,” he told the News in a 2010 interview, shortly after the launch of the Kaska Nation’s 10-year substance abuse plan.

“If I can change, anybody can change. You can come through some disaster situations to realize there’s help out there.”

Morrison passed away from liver cancer on Aug. 5. He was 54 years old.

Born in Cassiar, B.C. in 1960, he was the only son and eldest child of Emma and Marvin Morrison.

He grew up in Prince George, Fort St. John and Dawson Creek but spent most of his life in the Yukon.

Morrison would spend his summers visiting his relatives in Watson Lake, according to his cousin, Freda Campbell.

She said he especially enjoyed learning traditional skills from his uncle Fred Hasselberg, who passed away earlier this year.

Morrison was an accomplished businessman who was known as a “deal maker and peace maker,” according to his former colleague Ronald Gartshore.

He was instrumental in the negotiation and signing of the historic Kaska Sharing Accord, which allowed resource development to proceed, Gartshore said.

“It was Dave Porter who acknowledged that without Alex Morrison and his humble approach to unity, the historic accord would have never been completed,” he said.

In 2005, the pair founded the Liard First Nation Development Corporation together.

Without a land claims settlement in place, Gartshore said, the First Nation had little funding, but the corporation started with $7,000 and grew into a multimillion-dollar company over the years.

Since 2013, he had served as president of the Cekask Development Corporation, which provided business, management and training services within the Yukon and northern British Columbia.

Morrison was also executive director and capital works director of the Selkirk First Nation in the 1980s.

“Alex made and maintained many life-long relationships with the people of Pelly and with the family of his children there, which he had the utmost respect for,” Campbell said.

“Alex built his family home in Pelly with his friends and it’s the home that his family still lives in today.”

Morrison secured multi-million dollar arrangements with governments that resulted in Pelly Crossing having some of the finest community infrastructure and buildings, Gartshore said.

Trevor Harding, one of Morrison’s closest friends, said they walked a journey of recovery together and went to many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings over the years.

Harding said he was happy to watch his friend break his addiction cycle and “show that life to his children.”

Morrison was a devoted Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Blue Jays fan, Harding said.

They attended a baseball game together in Toronto, once, a game which the Blue Jays won.

Earlier this summer, when Morrison’s health was deteriorating, they spoke on the phone one last time.

It was July 22 and they talked about Morrison’s children and the upcoming school year.

He wanted his children to be focused on their studies and not his illness, Harding said.

“We cried on the phone as Alex told me I was one of his closest friends ever,” he said.

“The power of someone like Alex sharing all of this with me was overwhelming.”

During that last phone call, Morrison predicted the Blue Jays would win the World Series this year, a feat they haven’t achieved since 1993.

Last week, Harding sent his friend a text message from Nova Scotia, talking about the recent trades the team had made and the impact it would have.

“None of it was answered so I knew the beginning of his new journey was upon us,” Harding said.

The Blue Jays have lost only one game since July 28, winning 14 games in that span.

A celebration of life will take place on Sunday, Aug. 16 in Whitehorse at the Kwanlin Dun Nakwataku Potlatch House at 2 p.m.

A potlatch will follow at 5 p.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you take a moment to consider your culture, listen to an elder, or trap a wolf, Campbell said.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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