By Leighann Chalykoff
A timing gaffe means Whitehorse residents will not cast ballots on the fate of an Arkell greenbelt this week.
The referendum question, to determine whether or not to develop the land, was supposed to be piggybacked on Thursday’s municipal election ballots.
But it was pulled last week after city administration reviewed the Municipal Act and discovered voters weren’t given enough notice.
The city was mistakenly following timelines outlined in the Elections Act, which covers elections, not the Municipal Act, which covers referendums, said city manager Dennis Shewfelt.
“That’s where we got confused.”
The Municipal Act requires 21 days notice before the first day of voting.
Advanced polling fell on October 12, which would have given voters only 17 days notice.
The triangular swath of Crown land up for vote is wedged between the Arkell and McIntyre subdivisions.
It was originally slated for development along with the rest of the Arkell subdivision in 1989, but was left undisturbed when the Kwanlin Dun First Nation considered it for part of its land claim selection.
When Kwanlin Dun decided it didn’t want the land, it ended up lumped in with the larger greenbelt area around McIntyre, Falcon and Copper Ridge.
The ballot question would have asked whether the 12.3-hectare piece of land should be considered for residential development.
Bylaw 2006-10, passed by city council in June, requires a citywide referendum every time a piece of land which is designated protected — greenbelt, environmental protection or park reserve — is to be developed.
In an election year, the vote is to be piggybacked on the municipal election ballots, according to the bylaw’s wording.
But now the fate of the land and the new date for the vote are both up in the air, said Shewfelt.
That question will be brought forward to the next mayor and council, he added.
Shedding light on a
The territory’s cold temperatures often force the homeless problem inside and out of sight.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
“People don’t think it’s a problem here,” said Status of Women co-ordinator Charlotte Hrenchuk.
“But the fact of the matter is that it does happen.
“And it’s not a diminishing problem — it’s growing.”
The Salvation Army shelter had an occupancy rate of 102 per cent last year, said Hrenchuk.
“What does that tell you?”
There is an urgent and growing need to address youth homelessness in the city, said George Green, associate chair of the Whitehorse Planning Group on Homelessness in a interview in 2005.
Something is happening here that is causing kids to drink, do drugs and end up on the street and we have to get to the root of this problem, he said at the time.
The planning group released a report, called Room to Grow, last November stressing the need for action in the North.
There were lots of survival sex stories, said report co-author Heather Finton in 2005.
She’d listened to many painful narratives while compiling the work.
Many local girls in their early teens have exchanged sexual favours for places to stay or even rides home, she said.
This week, the Anti-Poverty Coalition, the planning group and several other grassroots organizations are hosting a series of events to raise the profile of homelessness.
Monday, a documentary about two Vancouver street youth screens at the Centre de la Francophone at 7 p.m.
Tuesday, there’s a community potluck at the United Church, starting at 5 p.m.
Wednesday at noon, Habitat for Humanity is addressing Yukon affordable housing issues at the Francophone Centre.
Thursday there’s a speaker and a theatrical presentation aimed at women in poverty. It will be held at noon in the Elijah Smith Building lobby.
Youth speak out on poverty Friday at Elijah Smith from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
And all week there’s an art exhibit at the old Cranberry Bistro. (GK)