Government threatens to sue Whistle Bend blogger

A blogger has removed some comments from a website after the Yukon government threatened legal action. The site, www.whistlebendfiles.

A blogger has removed some comments from a website after the Yukon government threatened legal action.

The site, www.whistlebendfiles.wordpress.com, is a blog dedicated to covering the ongoing controversy over the construction of the Whistle Bend subdivision.

The website is administered by an anonymous blogger who goes by the name “Whistleleaks.”

A few months ago, a commenter, calling themselves “Contractor,” accused two senior bureaucrats with the Department of Community Services of incompetence in a post on the site.

In early April, the Yukon’s Justice Department sent a letter to Automattic, the company that hosts the blog, demanding that the posts be removed.

“The public, including yourself, has every right to express opinions about their government and to criticize public officials. However, freedom of expression is not absolute. False assertions about an individual that tend to harm the reputation of the individual are defamatory and actionable as such,” wrote government lawyer Philippa Lawson.

The blogger took down the post but replaced it with the Lawson’s letter.

This prompted the Justice Department to send another missive, demanding that the original letter be taken down as well.

Because the letter quoted some of the defamatory statements from the original posting, it was essentially the same as leaving the comment up, said Dan Cable, spokesperson for the Department of Justice.

Lawson’s letter has since been removed.

The whole situation has put the government in a difficult position, said Cable.

“People are allowed to criticize their government … it’s just different when you start criticizing individuals for work they carry out on behalf of the government in a way that calls into question their integrity or their competence,” he said. “There were lines there that we felt that the blogger had crossed.”

The blogger declined to give an interview, but responded with a statement on the website.

“My goal is to achieve a tactful yet respectful discussion,” wrote Whistleleaks.

“I do appreciate the comments and the public input. I, however, do request that it stay within the guidelines as I stated within the (Fair use Notice and Disclaimer) and I will not tolerate at anytime slanderous, hurtful comments or personal attacks on persons related to the stories. That being said, certain comments seem to have independent or first-hand knowledge pertaining to certain individuals or entities. I cannot vet these accusations, nor can I deny or confirm them. I trust that the individual or entity posting shall exhibit their own judgment accordingly,” read the statement.

The Whistle Bend subdivision – a $250-million project which is expected to hold 8,000 people when finished – has been beset by controversy for the last few years.

The original plans called for leaving large areas of natural green space intact. But those plans were based on aerial photographs, and when construction started it was quickly discovered that the design was flawed and would not allow water to drain properly.

To correct the problem, trees were be cleared and hundreds of thousands of cubic metres of soil and gravel were brought in to raise road and lot levels.

Norcope Enterprises, which had a $15.9-million contract to build the water and utility infrastructure for the first two phases of the subdivision, assumed that the $2.1 million of extra work fell within the scope of its contract.

But the Yukon government disagreed and gave that work to Sidhu Trucking instead.

In June 2011, Norcope took to the streets, surrounding the Yukon legislature with heavy equipment in protest.

It also filed a lawsuit, which is still making its way through the courts.

The president of Norcope, Doug Gonder, said he doesn’t know who’s behind the blog but has been following it closely.

“It happens time and time again that issues that are related wrongdoings by the government, they’re able to hide that in the courts and bypass the public knowing what’s going on, and I think that it’s about time that the public was aware of the activity on that project,” he said.

Gonder claims that he’s still owed about $4 million for the work his company has done on Whistle Bend.

While the case is still pending, Gonder said that Norcope has been in discussions with the Yukon government and is hopeful that they may be able to come to an agreement.

“We’re crying out to the Yukon government to pay their bill so we can survive another season, but to have that much money held back on a project of that magnitude is unbelievable,” he said.

Contact Josh Kerr at

joshk@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Kwanlin Dün First Nation chief Doris Bill holds up a signed copy of the KDFN <em>Lands Act</em> agreement during an announcement at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse on Oct. 20. Under the new act, called Nan kay sháwthän Däk’anúta ch’e (We all look after our land) in Southern Tutchone, KDFN will be able to allot citizens land to build their own houses on, for example, or to use for traditional activities. The First Nation will also be able to enforce laws around things like land access and littering. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Kwanlin Dün First Nation’s Lands Act comes into force

The act gives the First Nation the authority to manage, protect and enforce laws on its settlement lands

Two doctors in Watson Lake say they are at risk of losing their housing due to a Yukon Housing Corporation policy that only allows one pet per family. (Wikimedia Commons)
Healthcare workers in Watson Lake say housing pet policy could force them to leave

The Yukon Housing Corporation has threatened evictions for having more than one pet

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading

Smartphone showing various applications to social media services and Google. (Pixabay photo)
National media calling for level playing field with Google, Facebook

In Canada, Google and Facebook control 80 per cent of all online advertising revenues

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee, right, before question period at the Yukon legislative assembly in Whitehorse on March 7, 2019. The Yukon government announced Oct. 19 it has increased the honoraria rates for school council members. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Honoraria increased for school council members

Members of school councils throughout the territory could soon receive an increased… Continue reading

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

asdf
EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Most Read