Yukon Energy’s headquarters in Whitehorse on Aug. 4. Two Dawson City residents who had confrontations with a Yukon Energy employee over Black Lives Matter posters after a rally in the town say they are unsatisfied with the way the company dealt with the situation. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Apology for racist actions of Yukon Energy Dawson City employee inadequate, complainants say

Two Dawson City residents who were accosted by a Yukon Energy employee over Black Lives Matter posters placed on power poles say they’re unsatisfied with how the utility handled the situation.

While Yukon Energy has issued general condemnations of racism, Elaine Corden and Savannah McKenzie said they felt the utility failed to take accountability for the racist actions of its employee or outline how it plans to fix the situation.

“They’ve done terribly,” Corden said in an interview Aug. 4.

She and McKenzie were among the Dawson residents who attended a Black Lives Matter rally June 6 that doubled as a vigil for Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old Afro-Indigenous woman who fatally fell from a Toronto apartment balcony after police entered the unit.

McKenzie was among the organizers of the event, which saw posters with “Black Lives Matter” put up around town.

Both she and Corden were leaving the event, separately, when they encountered the employee.

The News is not naming him because it has been unable to reach him directly for comment.

Corden said she saw the man, who said he was a Yukon Energy employee “acting on orders,” tearing down Black Lives Matter posters attached to a power pole as she was walking home. The man told her he didn’t agree with the posters and that “all lives matter,” she said, and when she tried to explain why the phrase wasn’t acceptable — it dismisses and diminishes the racism Black people face — he became “very aggressive” and began cursing at her and the organizers of the rally.

He then “stormed off,” and she took a picture of him. Corden said she kept walking home, but the man suddenly pulled up next to her in a truck and told her he wanted to apologize.

Corden said she felt he was more concerned about the fact that she had taken his picture and kept saying, “all lives matter.”

McKenzie, meanwhile, said she was walking with a group when the employee pulled up next to them, asked who had organized the event and told them they couldn’t put on posters on “his power poles.”

He also said the posters should say “all lives matter,” McKenzie wrote in an email, and that it “became clear that (the man) was being aggressive and racist.”

“(Organizers) had been worried about the safety of our speakers and protest participants from the beginning, and this interaction confirmed that this concern was a valid one,” she wrote.

Corden said she emailed her photo to Yukon Energy, and while she was encouraged when it quickly launched an investigation into the issue, the results were disappointing.

Yukon Energy posted a statement on Facebook July 14 saying it completed a “review of the incident” that “the matter has been addressed,” but couldn’t share details due for privacy reasons.

The utility also emailed what it said was a letter from the employee to some complainants as well as media on July 29.

“I now understand that the statements I made could serve to diminish the impacts of racism on our marginalized community members and while it was not my intention, I wholeheartedly apologize if any statements I made, or actions I took, on June 6th hurt or intimidated anyone,” the letter, signed “a Yukon Energy Employee” reads in part.

It also says he will be leaving Dawson.

Yukon Energy CEO Andrew Hall told the News in an email Aug. 4 the employee chose to sign the letter with “a Yukon Energy Employee.”

Hall said the utility rejects “racism and discrimination of any kind in the strongest terms” and is “reviewing business policies, processes and procedures to ensure they promote diversity and inclusion, and will be providing more training to employees.”

Corden, who was sent a copy of the letter, described it as “out of touch” and “inadequate.”

While she understood the employee’s right to privacy, she said she expected Yukon Energy to explain the steps it was taking to ensure a similar situation wouldn’t arise with any of its employees again and that employees would receive adequate anti-racism and racial sensitivity training.

“They did none of that, but that’s what I would really like to see,” she said.

McKenzie, who didn’t receive the letter but has seen a copy, said she was “incredibly frustrated” by what she saw as a “non-response,” and that simply choosing to relocate the employee from Dawson “shows that there are effectively no repercussions for his actions.”

She suggested Yukon Energy could have committed to providing cultural and anti-racist training to its employees, hiring more Black, Indigenous or people of colour, making donations to Black Lives Matter organizations or firing the employee.

“He was racist, he terrified our community members, and he made us feel unsafe in our own community,” McKenzie wrote. “Sending him (away) will not undo that hurt, and does not prevent it from happening again.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Children’s performer Claire Ness poses for a photo for the upcoming annual Pivot Festival. “Claire Ness Morning” will be a kid-friendly performance streamed on the morning of Jan. 30. (Photo courtesy Erik Pinkerton Photography)
Pivot Festival provides ‘delight and light’ to a pandemic January

The festival runs Jan. 20 to 30 with virtual and physically distant events

The Boulevard of Hope was launched by the Yukon T1D Support Network and will be lit up throughout January. It is aimed at raising awareness about Yukoners living with Type 1 diabetes. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Boulevard of Hope sheds light on Type 1 diabetes

Organizers hope to make it an annual event

City of Whitehorse city council meeting in Whitehorse on Oct. 5, 2020. An updated council procedures bylaw was proposed at Whitehorse city council’s Jan. 18 meeting that would see a few changes to council meetings and how council handles certain matters like civil emergencies. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Whitehorse procedures bylaw comes forward

New measures proposed for how council could deal with emergencies

A Yukon survey querying transportation between communities has already seen hundreds of participants and is the latest review highlighting the territory’s gap in accessibility. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Multiple reports, survey decry lack of transportation between Yukon communities

A Community Travel survey is the latest in a slew of initiatives pointing to poor accessibility

Mobile vaccine team Team Balto practises vaccine clinic set-up and teardown at Vanier Catholic Secondary School. Mobile vaccine teams are heading out this week to the communities in order to begin Moderna vaccinations. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Mobile vaccine teams begin community vaccinations

“It’s an all-of-government approach”

A file photo of grizzly bear along the highway outside Dawson City. Yukon conservation officers euthanized a grizzly bear Jan. 15 that was originally sighted near Braeburn. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon News file)
Male grizzly euthanized near Braeburn

Yukon conservation officers have euthanized a grizzly bear that was originally sighted… Continue reading

Mayor Dan Curtis listens to a councillor on the phone during a city council meeting in Whitehorse on April 14, 2020. Curtis announced Jan. 14 that he intends to seek nomination to be the Yukon Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre in the 2021 territorial election. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Whitehorse mayor seeking nomination for territorial election

Whitehorse mayor Dan Curtis is preparing for a run in the upcoming… Continue reading

Gerard Redinger was charged under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> with failing to self-isolate and failing to transit through the Yukon in under 24 hours. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Man ticketed $1,150 at Wolf Creek campground for failing to self-isolate

Gerard Redinger signed a 24-hour transit declaration, ticketed 13 days later

Yukon Energy, Solvest Inc. and Chu Níikwän Development Corporation are calling on the city for a meeting to look at possibilities for separate tax rates or incentives for renewable energy projects. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Tax changes sought for Whitehorse energy projects

Delegates call for separate property tax category for renewable energy projects

Yukon University has added seven members to its board of governors in recent months. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New members named to Yukon U’s board of governors

Required number of board members now up to 17

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

Most Read