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Klondike's UNESCO bid at risk by gov't dithering: First Nation

The executive director of Tr'ondek Hwech'in says the Yukon government needs to make some quick decisions or work to make the Klondike a UNESCO World Heritage Site is going to come to a grinding halt.

The executive director of Tr’ondek Hwech’in says the Yukon government needs to make some quick decisions or work to make the Klondike a UNESCO World Heritage Site is going to come to a grinding halt.

Jackie Olson said the committee working on the application to the UN is ready to move to the next step. They’ve already secured nearly $700,000 over three years from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor, but won’t see a drop of that money until the Yukon government shows it is willing to chip in.

“It is contingent on YG committing to the process,” she said.

The group, which includes representatives from the Yukon government, the First Nation, the Klondike Visitors Association and the Klondike Placer Miners Association, has asked for about $370,000 over four years from the Yukon Department of Economic Development’s strategic industry development fund. But Olson says the government has been “reluctant to commit to that.”

Meanwhile, the money that the committee received from CanNor more than a year ago has run out and Tr’ondek Hwech’in has been using its own dollars to keep the co-ordinator spearheading the project employed.

But even that can only last until about the end of the month, Olson said.

She said the committee has been asking the Yukon government about the funding since about April, but still hasn’t heard anything.

A designation by UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - is given to international sites “that are of outstanding universal value to humanity.”

The current list includes places like the pyramids in Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and the baroque cathedrals of Latin America.

The Klondike has been on a tentative list since 2004.

Details of what the Kondike proposal would look like will be a part of the nomination process.

The designation for the Klondike would increase tourism to the area, the Klondike committee says. It would also provide more investment and more business opportunities.

“UNESCO is not only important to Dawson City, it’s actually important to the whole Yukon. I think the benefits of having this type of designation is going to be across the board,” Olson said.

Assuring the mining community that any designation is not going to change their business has been a hurdle, Olsen said.

“They were at the table in the early stages and they just didn’t have the time to commit to the preamble,” she said.

“Now that we’re ready to actually do the hard work to actually get this nomination off the ground they’re back at the table.”

The nomination dossier that needs to be completed is not a simple one, Olson said. It has to show that the nominated property has that required “outstanding universal value.”

The Klondike committee says that the area illustrates a significant stage in human history and is an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement where a culture has interacted with the environment.

Olson said it takes a specific set of skills to write these kind of things, and experts will need to be brought in.

“How do we articulate something that, in a lot of ways, is essence?” she asked.

Next, the area would be evaluated by two groups of international experts who review the reports and visit the sites before giving a recommendation.

The process can take years.

Klondike MLA Sandy Silver praised the committee for all the work it has done. He says that now is the time for the government to step up and confirm that it is onboard.

“For the first time since 2004, all pistons are firing. It seems that everybody is in the working group,” he said.

Silver recently questioned Tourism Minister Mike Nixon in the legislature on whether the Yukon government will approve the territorial funding request.

Nixon said the application is making its way through the process. He didn’t say how long that might take.

“I am confident we will find a solution and am confident that, between my department and the Department of Tourism and Culture, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in and the City of Dawson, we’ll be able to find a way to move forward on this project.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at