Yukon Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan (right) presented Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott (centre) with the City of Whitehorse chain of office during the swearing-in ceremony for the new council on Nov. 1. Coun. Michelle Friesen is seen in the background. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

Yukon Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan (right) presented Whitehorse Mayor Laura Cabott (centre) with the City of Whitehorse chain of office during the swearing-in ceremony for the new council on Nov. 1. Coun. Michelle Friesen is seen in the background. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

New Whitehorse city council sworn in

Mayor reflects on council ‘dream team’

Members of the newly-elected Whitehorse city council are officially on the job.

A special, invitation-only meeting was held Nov. 1 for the swearing-in of the new council elected Oct. 21.

Approximately 25 select family and friends of council members as well as dignitaries were on-hand for the ceremony and first official special council meeting of the new term.

It was also streamed on the city’s website for those who couldn’t attend in-person. The event saw the largest number of people inside council chambers since COVID-19 restrictions were put in place in March 2020.

The ceremony

Council members were led in by the city’s honour guard of firefighters and drummer Ray Sidney. A prayer led by Dianne Smith in English and Sean Smith in Southern Tutchone followed.

During the short ceremony with Yukon Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan, council members swore their Oath of Office, the Oath of Allegiance and the Oath of Athens, vowing to “transmit this city not only, not less, but greater and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us.”

They also signed the paperwork allowing them to officially take on the titles they were elected to with new Mayor Laura Cabott donning the chain of office for the first meeting.

There were elbow-bumps in lieu of handshakes with Duncan after each signed the paperwork to take on their council roles.

There are some major changes to the council makeup with just Cabott (previously a councillor) and councillors Dan Boyd and Jocelyn Curteanu making their way back to chambers from the previous term.

Previous councillor Kirk Cameron, who served from 2011 until he resigned in 2015, has also returned. Mellisa Murray, Michelle Friesen and Ted Laking were each elected to their first term as councillors.

Mayor Laura Cabott takes the mayor’s seat in council chambers after being sworn in as Whitehorse’s new mayor Nov. 1, 2021. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)

A word from the mayor

In a speech after being sworn-in to office, Cabott first recognized the tragic Oct. 26 shootings in Faro that left two dead and one with critical injuries.

“The City of Whitehorse sends its condolences to the people of Faro and we are here if you need us,” she said.

She went on to highlight the council for the 2021 to 2024 term of office, describing members as “each experienced in their own fields; some veterans, some rookies, passionate, hard-working, and the most diverse council in the history of Whitehorse.

“In my view, voters have chosen a dream team,” Cabott said.

It’s a council that will take on pressing, challenging and complex issues and will be asked to respond with the best solutions for the city.

“Whitehorse, like the rest of the world, is starting to emerge after a devastating pandemic,” Cabott said. “I believe from hardship like this comes knowledge, and also comes opportunity. I want to make sure our people are healthy and our city is strong and ready to take action on important issues.”

Cabott is excited to work with the new council and city staff and said she remains committed to facing challenges head-on.

“But I will also need your help because we are all in this together,” she said. “It follows then that we, as the City of Whitehorse, must ensure that we are listening to and engaging with the community — COVID or no COVID.”

Cabott emphasized the importance of encouraging and welcoming feedback from residents along with highlighting the city’s “opportunity and responsibility” to work with other communities.

In the less than two weeks since being elected, Cabott said she has reached out to the mayors of other Yukon communities, along with other governments.

“I want to emphasize that this term also presents an exciting opportunity for us to reengage and reenergize our relationships with our federal, territorial and First Nations government partners in a meaningful way,” she said. “As mayor, I assure you I have already set those wheels in motion.”

In an interview following the meeting, Cabott said she has had informal discussions with territorial ministers and First Nations chiefs. She is also anticipating talking with the premier over the next week.

She’s also spent time since the election getting briefed on a number of more “pressing files” that will be coming up in the near future, such as the city and territory’s plans to co-host the 2027 Canada Winter Games. A big part of the bid will be due in January, she said.

Now, officially the city’s mayor, Cabott said she’s looking forward to “getting down to some work.”

Cabott wrapped up her speech with a thank-you to previous mayor Dan Curtis and past council members for their dedication and commitment to the community.

Coun. Jocelyn Curteanu and Yukon Supreme Court Chief Justice Suzanne Duncan share an elbow bump after Curteanu signs the paperwork and is sworn into office for another term on Nov. 1, 2021.

Council business

Following Cabott’s speech, council voted on the order for deputy mayor, reserve deputy mayor and committee appointments for the next year.

Serving as deputy mayor in two-month stints will be Murray, Boyd, Cameron, Laking, Friesen and Curteanu. The position of reserve deputy mayor is also outlined in six-month blocks with Curteanu taking the role until April 30 and Cameron then taking it on until Oct. 31.

As for committees, Friesen will chair the corporate services committee and be vice-chair for community services. Boyd will chair the planning committee and serve as vice-chair for the operations committee, while Curteanu will serve as chair of the development services committee and be vice-chair of public health and safety. Laking will chair operations and serve as vice-chair on planning, while Murray serves as chair for the community services committee and vice-chair of development services. Finally, Cameron will serve as chair of the public health and safety, and as vice-chair for corporate services.

In an interview following the meeting, Friesen said she is excited to be sworn-in, get those first meeting “jitters” out of the way, and now dig into the work of council after spending her post-election time becoming familiar with council processes.

“Oh, I’ve definitely learned a lot,” Friesen said, praising city administration for its work to help new council members. Friesen is also pleased to bring a First Nations perspective to Whitehorse city council as the first Indigenous council member since Ed Schultz who served from 1991 to 1994.

“People are excited to have that representation,” she said, pointing out that a large percentage of the city’s population is First Nations. “That representation is extremely important.”

It is one of the reasons she ran for office, she said.

Like Cabott and Friesen, the other five council members appeared ready to get to work.

On Nov. 8, the new council will have its first standing committee meeting, where issues are discussed before being voted on the following week at a regular meeting.

Contact Stephanie Waddell at stephanie.waddell@yukon-news.com

Whitehorse city council