Federal building closed to public

Whitehorse's federal building is no longer accessible to the public, say two nonprofit workers who were thrown off the property last week. Last Wednesday, Linnea Rudachyk and Patricia Bacon mounted six posters on the front steps of the Elijah Smith Building.

Whitehorse’s federal building is no longer accessible to the public, say two nonprofit workers who were thrown off the property last week.

Last Wednesday, Linnea Rudachyk and Patricia Bacon mounted six posters on the front steps of the Elijah Smith Building to raise awareness for World Hepatitis Day.

They tied posters to the flagpoles and lampposts in front of the building.

One poster shows two women holding a sign that says, ‘The highest rates of hepatitis C are right here in Canada.’

Another is a black-and-white photo of federal MP Larry Bagnell holding a sign that reads ‘Knowing the Yukon is knowing Hep C’

Less than two hours after the posters went up, they were torn down by commissionaires who staff the entrance of the building.

Friday, Rudachyk and Bacon tried again. They set up their display outside the building hoping to reach people who were out for a sunny stroll along Main Street at lunchtime.

But that day, the two Blood Ties employees were barely able to keep their signs up for more than two minutes, said Bacon.

“The commissionaires really aggressively tore down our signs,” she said.

“They were just slamming them on the ground and didn’t ask whether they could assist us.”

Then they threatened to call the RCMP.

The response Rudachyk and Bacon received from the commisionaires was disturbing, they say.

“We’re an advocacy group, what rules were we breaking?” said Bacon.

After being told to take down their signs, Rudachyk and Bacon left them in a pile on the front steps along with a couple of sweaters.

After the posters were taken down Rudachyk and Bacon decided instead to hand out hepatitis C pamphlets, bracelets and pens to people walking past them on the sidewalk.

“We received a lot of intelligent questions from people who were interested in learning more,” said Rudachyk.

“The Yukon’s hepatitis rate is twice the national rate.”

Seeing that Rudachyk and Bacon had left their signs on the steps, the commissionaire told them they were calling the RCMP.

That’s when they decided to leave.

“It’s sad to know that the Elijah Smith Building, which is a part of our community, is closed-door,” said Bacon.

Blood Ties has long used the centrally located federal building for protests and campaigns and never encountered any problems, she added.

It was only when the multinational company SNC Lavalin’s operations and maintenance took over care of the building last fall that access was limited.

That was when the company also decided to bar the public from using the washrooms in the Elijah Smith Building, Bacon points out.

Initially Blood Ties wanted to hang the posters in the foyer of the Elijah Smith Building, but had a hard time getting in touch with someone from the company to discuss that possibility.

Finally the group received a letter back from Joanne Gueho, of SNC Lavalin’s operations and maintenance, telling them they couldn’t mount their display unless certain conditions were met.

The group would have to increase their liability insurance to cover the company and they would have to pay a $50 deposit fee for use of the space.

It’s a lot to ask of a nonprofit group that struggles financially, said Rudachyk.

Rudachyk and Bacon tried to call the company for clarifications on the letter, but were unable to get a hold of anyone. Finally they decided they would just host the campaign on the outside steps of the building, where protests are often held.

“We kept trying to talk to a real person, but it was a nightmare,” said Bacon.

They figured it wouldn’t be a problem since each year Blood Ties meets outside of the building for their AIDS day walk.

“Now it seems the building isn’t part of the community any longer,” said Bacon.

“Before (SNC Lavalin O&M) took over, it used to be an accessible place.”

SNC Lavalin O&M were unable to arrange an interview before press time.

Contact Vivian Belik at

vivianb@yukon-news.com