Disability rights activist Devin Brodhagen is hoping to run for the NDP in Watson Lake during this year’s territorial election.
Brodhagen, 29, said Watson Lake needs a more diverse and sustainable economy. He said many people in the community aren’t trained in a particular trade, which can make it hard to find work.
“There’s a lot of people out here that are willing to get out there and work, but they just don’t know where to turn,” he said.
He believes those people could be trained to work in renewable resource industries, including forestry and fish and wildlife.
Brodhagen is also concerned about mental health and addiction issues in Watson Lake, and said there needs to be more awareness of those problems.
“There’s a lot of community members that struggle with addictions,” he said. “That really touches me dearly.”
Brodhagen has been a quadriplegic since 2005, when he hit a bison while driving down the Alaska Highway. He was 18 at the time.
He said Watson Lake could be more accessible to people with disabilities. “I know a lot of the roads along here, the public roads and side roads, they can be a little rough around the edges,” he said.
Many buildings in town are hard to get into, he added. He said improving accessibility could also be good for tourism in the community.
A citizen of the Liard First Nation, Brodhagen was born and raised in Watson Lake. He can trace his family back to his great-grandfather, Frank Watson, a prospector and trapper who is the town’s namesake.
His grandmother, Alice Watson, taught him to trap and live off the land as a child. He also enjoys photography.
Brodhagen now works as an assistant manager for Manitoulin Transport and gives motivational speeches at schools in the Yukon and in the Northwest Territories.
He said his community supported him after the accident that left him unable to walk.
“And I felt it’s time for me to give back to that. I figured it’s time for me to give back to my community,” he said.
“I want nothing but the best for the community.”
Watson Lake is currently held by the Yukon Party’s Patti McLeod, who is seeking re-election.
“She’s a great person,” Brodhagen said. “She works hard, but I think in the long run, I think it’s time for a new government.”
Brodhagen will be facing off against Erin Labonte for the NDP nomination. Ernie Jamieson is the Liberal candidate in the riding.
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