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Looking for a literacy champ

Yukon's literacy advocates want the territory's politicians to commit to act on a decade-old plan that's just collecting dust. So far, no one's risen to the challenge.

Yukon’s literacy advocates want the territory’s politicians to commit to act on a decade-old plan that’s just collecting dust.

So far, no one’s risen to the challenge.

That’s because politicians always prefer to answer the question they wish you had asked them.

So, in response to a letter sent by Yukon Literacy Coalition, Yukon Learn Society and the Learning Disabilities Association of the Yukon, both the NDP and the Liberals have pointed to the literacy planks of their platforms without affirming whether they’d act on report recommendations.

The Yukon Party and First Nations Party didn’t respond to the letter at all. The Greens acknowledged the letter, but indicated they didn’t have literacy proposals of their own.

The NDP responded promptly with a promise to boost support for community-based literacy and numeracy projects.

And, after getting wind of this News article, the Liberals rattled off their literacy-based commitments: the creation of a lifelong learning advisory council, eliminating tuition fees at Yukon College for adult basic education, more support for residents preparing for apprenticeships and college programs and a beefed-up ESL program at Yukon College for new arrivals to Canada.

The Yukon Party affirmed its support for the Yukon Imagination Library, located at the literacy centre in the Canada Games Centre.

More than 12,000 adult Yukoners are functionally illiterate, according to one internationally recognized study. That means these residents lack the skills to hold down a job or enter a preemployment or training program.

“These Yukoners have difficulty obtaining a driver’s license, reading a safety manual, responding to notes from their childrens’ school, voting in an election or using email,” states the letter sent to Yukon’s politicians. “These tasks become insurmountable barriers to those without literacy skills.”

Literacy’s meaning has expanded beyond simply being able to read and write, said Moira Sauer, a communications officer with the Yukon Literacy Coalition.

That’s because, to function in today’s workforce, residents must also be able to work with numbers, with computers, and with people. “It’s like life skills, essentially,” said Sauer.

The 2001 Yukon Literacy Strategy is a slim, 11-page report, prepared by Pat Duncan’s short-lived Liberal government.

Among other things, it calls for the territory to create community education committees to “monitor, evaluate and influence the design and delivery of all education programming for their respective community.”

The report’s never been acted on, said Sauer. “It’s never had any funding or focus or anything.

“This is a 10-year-old document, but it’s still totally valid. No party needs to go and re-do the work again. It needs a couple tweaks here and there, but basically nothing’s changed.”

Contact John Thompson at