Fracking committee feels the pressure

The Yukon Legislative Assembly's select committee on the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing is on the final leg of its community tour this week.

The Yukon Legislative Assembly’s select committee on the risks and benefits of hydraulic fracturing is on the final leg of its community tour this week.

Last night in Whitehorse at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre about 150 people came out to give testimony, show support or hear what others had to say. About 40 people signed up for five minutes each of the MLAs’ attention.

Deanna McArthur prefaced her speech by saying that she had never spoken publicly about something like this before, but that in the past six months she has knocked on the doors of several hundred Yukoners to share information about fracking.

“I was so encouraged that the majority of those I talked with were individuals who do not want that practice allowed here,” she said.

“On the downside, though, I was saddened by the cynicism of so many who in spite of their feelings on the subject wondered if it would matter much one way or the other what they said or signed, and the decisions have already been made by those in power.”

Lee Mennell echoed the sentiment later in the evening.

“In spite of what I consider the biggest popular movement I’ve ever seen in 40 years of living here, and I think the government should have gotten the message loud and clear a long time ago … they still seem intent to do this with this project,” he said.

“I’ve written letters, I’ve been to the legislature, I’ve done all this stuff – it’s time consuming. A person has to make a living. This is a waste of my time, in a sense. I have to fight against my government.

“This is masquerade, it feels to me like a masquerade, that we have to have the illusion of democracy in spite of the fact that we all know what government wants to do.”

Mennell then led the crowd with his guitar in a version of Country Joe and the Fish’s anti-Vietnam protest song, with the lyrics altered.

He had a friend hold a cardboard poster with the new lyrics to the chorus, and NDP MLA Kevin Barr held the mic.

“What are we fracking for?” asked Mennell in the song’s chorus. “There ain’t nothing that they won’t trash to get at that natural gas.”

Gary Bemis attempted to survey the crowd, and asked those who favour fracking to raise a hand. It’s unclear if no industry supporters showed up, or if none dared to raise a hand in a crowd overwhelmingly opposed to fracking.

Committee chair Patti McLeod interrupted Bemis and reminded him that his time allotment was for him to give testimony to the MLAs.

The committee also visited Haines Junction and Carcross this week.

By all accounts the Carcross meeting was a rousing display of anti-fracking fervour.

The meeting went on for four hours, with 55 people speaking strongly against fracking in a community centre packed with about 150 people, said Corliss Burke, who gave a summary of the Carcross meeting to the Whitehorse crowd last night.

Many who spoke reminded the committee that the Carcross/Tagish First Nation has passed a resolution banning fracking on its traditional territory, and that the government could see another lawsuit if it goes in a different direction, she said.

It was “quite phenomenal for a tiny little town,” said Liz Reichenbach, who also attended both meetings.

And Astrid Vogt said it “smelled like there was revolution in the air” that night in Carcross.

Sean Smith, a councillor for the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, also addressed the committee in Whitehorse last night, although he gestured to symbolically remove his councillor hat and put on his Kwanlin Dun citizen hat before speaking.

He spoke of the “natural capital” that capitalists don’t take into account in their pursuit of profit.

That natural capital is “our blanket to secure our future, our children’s future and our children’s children’s future,” he said.

The Kwanlin Dun First Nation is one of few Yukon First Nations that has not publicly come out in opposition to fracking.

The Council of Yukon First Nations unanimously passed a resolution to ban fracking within its members’ traditional territories last year, however the Kwanlin Dun are not members of CYFN.

Kwanlin Dun held a meeting this week for its citizens to learn more about the oil and gas industry and allow them to ask questions.

It came up as an issue at the last general assembly, and there were concerns raised about fracking in particular, said Lael Lund, communications manager for the First Nation.

She confirmed that the First Nation has not yet taken a position on oil and gas development or fracking.

About 40 members of the First Nation attended the meeting, and asked pointed questions about potential effects of oil and gas development on caribou, water, fish and the land.

They also expressed concerns that benefits are short-lived and mainly go to Outsiders.

David Morrison, president of Yukon Energy, told the Canadian Senate this week that the Kwanlin Dun have partnered with the corporation on the planned Whitehorse liquefied natural gas power plant.

“We have a partnership with KDFN as they will be 50 per cent owners of this project,” he said, according the preliminary transcript of the Senate hearing.

Lund said that the partnership with the First Nation is not yet a done deal.

“Kwanlin Dun is eligible to invest up to 50 per cent in that project, but has not committed to it at this point,” she said.

The legislative committee’s Whitehorse hearing continues on Saturday at 1 p.m. at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

The committee will also accept written submission until Sept. 30. Visit the Yukon Legislative Assembly website for details.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

Just Posted

Sarah Walz leads a softball training session in Dawson City. Photo submitted by Sport Yukon.
Girls and women are underserved in sport: Sport Yukon

Sport Yukon held a virtual event to celebrate and discuss girls and women in sport

Main Street in Whitehorse on May 4. Whitehorse city council has passed a bylaw to allow pop-up patios in city parking spaces. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bagged meter fees could be discounted for patios

Council passes first reading at special meeting

The Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s business park planned in Marwell is among a number of sites that are expected to make more commercial/industrial land available in the coming years. (Submitted)
Council hears update on commercial land

Number of developments expected to make land available in near future

keith halliday
Yukonomist: Have I got an opportunity for you!

Are you tired of the same-old, same-old at work? Would you like to be a captain of industry, surveying your domain from your helicopter and enjoying steak dinners with influential government officials at the high-profile Roundup mining conference?

Clouds pass by the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Friday, June 12, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Yukon government, B.C. company want Supreme Court of Canada appeal of Wolverine Mine case

Government concerned with recouping cleanup costs, creditor wants review of receiver’s actions.

The Village of Carmacks has received federal funding for an updated asset management plan. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Federal funding coming to Carmacks

The program is aimed at helping municipalities improve planning and decision-making around infrastructure

Paddlers start their 715 kilometre paddling journey from Rotary Park in Whitehorse on June 26, 2019. The 2021 Yukon River Quest will have a different look. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
The 22nd annual Yukon River Quest moves closer to start date

Although the race will be modified in 2021, a field of 48 teams are prepared to take the 715 kilometre journey from Whitehorse to Dawson City on the Yukon River

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its June 7 meeting

Letters to the editor.
This week’s mailbox: the impact of residential schools, Whitehorse Connects, wildfires

Dear Editor; Anguish – extreme pain, distress or anxiety. Justice – the… Continue reading

PROOF CEO Ben Sanders is seen with the PROOF team in Whitehorse. (Submitted)
Proof and Yukon Soaps listed as semifinalists for national award

The two companies were shortlisted from more than 400 nominated

The RCMP Critical Incident Program will be training in Watson Lake from June 14-16. Mike Thomas/Yukon News
RCMP will conduct three days of training in Watson Lake

Lakeview Apartment in Watson Lake will be used for RCMP training

John Tonin/Yukon News Squash players duke it out during Yukon Open tournament action at Better Bodies on June 5.
Four division titles earned at squash Yukon Open

The territory’s squash talent was on full display at the 2021 Yukon Open

Most Read