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Federal minister promises aid for Yukon if flooding reaches emergency status

Federal official in town to see flood works, discuss planning.
Flanked by federal government Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair and Yukon MP Brendan Hanley, Yukon minister of community services Richard Mostyn details emergency preparedness work ongoing in the Yukon on April 13. (Submitted)

A federal minister visited Whitehorse this week and promised more help from the Canadian Forces if flooding reaches emergency levels again this summer.

A press conference was delivered on emergency preparedness by federal Minister Bill Blair, the Yukon’s Community Services Minister Richard Mostyn and Yukon MP Brendan Hanley on April 13.

The MP and ministers were on the ground inspecting the flood protections still in place from last year in the Marsh Lake area as well as the work that has already started this year ahead of the rising waters and the spring melt.

“Today we were out at M’Clintock Bay and we saw how residents are already gathering aggregate and starting to fill wire frames to stack along the shoreline to protect themselves against erosion and against wave action and flooding,” Mostyn said.

He added that berms are in place from last year as well as are hundreds of metres of sandbag wall in the Army Beach area.

Although protections are in place and being strengthened, Mostyn said the severity of flooding, if any, and where it will cause trouble remains a mystery.

“It’s very difficult to predict. I mean, even this year, we’re seeing higher snow packs in much of the territory,” Mostyn said.

He said less snow pack seems to have built up in the high country around the southern lakes region, but other conditions including rain and temperature matter just as much when it comes to assessing flood risk.

“We were just up at the monitoring point up at Wildland Fire. We saw all the pumps we bought, we’ve got new hoses, we have 300,000 sandbags in reserve, we’ve got new sandbagging machines,” he said.

Last summer’s flood response included a deployment of 100 Canadian Forces personnel.

Blair expressed confidence that they could be deployed again if needed — wherever they are needed. He noted the variety of emergency Canadian Forces deployments in recent years, including to remote northern communities and to assist with care homes during the first year of the pandemic. He said that while the Forces have done everything asked of them it has, at times, strained their manpower and recruitment capabilities in order to do so.

Blair and Mostyn said that lessons have been learned from emergency responses in other parts of the country. Among the disasters analyzed were the flooding and landslides that severed major transportation routes in British Columbia late last year.

Blair said Mostyn pointed to the Alaska Highway as critical national infrastructure, and he agreed.

The ministers said the role of climate change and the costs of repair after climate-related disasters are both at top of mind as emergency planning goes forward. Blair noted that the repairs to the transportation routes in B.C. has already cost $500 million. He said governments will have to acknowledge that transportation networks will probably have to be re-engineered to make them more resilient to future natural disasters.

Along with government spending, Mostyn said it is important for Yukoners to take personal responsibility. He has seen that take the form of FireSmart fuel reduction work on properties and neighbourhoods as well as work on flood barriers.

Blair said he would also be meeting with Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabbott and with Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston and Assembly of First Nations’ Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek to discuss emergency preparedness of the communities they represent.

Contact Jim Elliot at

Jim Elliot

About the Author: Jim Elliot

I’m a B.C. transplant here in Whitehorse at The News telling stories about the Yukon's people, environment, and culture.
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