Meet the shredder in chief

The manager of Yukon's Corporate Document Destruction Centre has won a Premier's Award of Excellence.

The manager of Yukon’s Corporate Document Destruction Centre has won a Premier’s Award of Excellence.

No, this is not a satirical poke at Premier Dennis Fentie’s desire to see certain documents disappear—although who knows what papers that supported protecting the Peel Watershed or proposed privatizing Yukon Energy have disappeared into the maw of the centre’s massive shredder?

If Dennis Clutton does, he’s not letting on.

“I don’t know,” he said with a chuckle. “White or coloured?”

Last year the operation, which is commonly known as the shredding depot, diverted more than 50 tonnes of confidential materials into the recycling stream. That, needless to say, is a lot of paper.

Before the shredding depot opened in 2006, sensitive government documents were burned in an open fire several times a year by a contractor, who was overseen by a government worker to ensure all sensitive information was destroyed.

The depot owns the biggest, baddest shredder in the territory. The grey hulk, which stands about 1.5 metres tall and three metres in length, is capable of gobbling up a three-ring binder whole, metal rings and all.

It doesn’t simply shred. It mulches, so that not even a sliver of information is recognizable after a document is eaten.

The depot’s workers have named the machine Sherman the Muncher. It cost about $25,000 when it was purchased last spring.

Nearby is a smaller shredder of more modest capabilities, Herman the Cruncher.

Coloured and white papers are usually separated to fetch a higher price from purchasers of waste paper. But that’s not always feasible when the documents in question are especially sensitive.

In those cases, the binder is fed to Sherman whole.

Piles of old books from libraries and schools also meet their demise here. A third machine chops the spines from books, to help remove the covers, which contain too much glue to be recycled, from pages.

Bankers boxes full of confidential information stand stacked almost to the ceiling. More boxes full of binders sit atop wooden pallets.

Many of the records come from the archives and corporate services, which are both required to hold massive amounts of paper for certain lengths of time, after which the documents are disposed of.

The rest of the paper is supplied by nearly 100 wheeled bins, scattered across government offices and schools in Whitehorse. They look like recycling bins, except they have a slotted top that’s locked shut.

About once a month, an absent-minded cubicle dweller will accidentally dispose of the wrong papers in one of these bins and have to call someone with a key to get it back. The movement of each bin is carefully tracked, lest one go missing.

This isn’t just a green operation. The pool of about six workers who staff the depot all have disabilities of some kind, and would otherwise have difficulty obtaining a government job.

Clutton, 45, is instrumental in some of them being here.

He previously worked as a job coach for the disabled. And while hiring staff last year he realized the typical method of conducting a government interview – with a panel of officials asking standardized questions and scribbling notes – wouldn’t do. Some applicants couldn’t speak.

So he set up an “experiential” interview, in which applicants would be asked a question, such as what would they do if their task for the day was done early, and the job-seekers would then act – by picking up a broom, for example – in response.

“I’ve certainly never seen anything like that,” said Jon Breen, the territory’s manager of workplace diversity. “In fact, we hired one of those fellows. It worked really well.”

Clutton says he was surprised to have been nominated, and to have won the award. “I was honoured. It’s nice, the recognition for my efforts.”

Other award recipients include Robert Magnuson, assistant deputy minister of infrastructure for Highways and Public Works; Stu Purser, manager of safety and training for Highways and Public Works; and Nora Trombley, manager of community nursing with Health and Social Services.

Three groups of territorial employees are also up for the award: the interdepartmental committee for the Vancouver Olympics, staff who developed the new Child and Family Services Act, and the Yukon Government Pandemic Co-ordination Plan Team.

Recipients will be honoured at a ceremony on September 17.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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