Parks cuts affect far more than guided tours

Open letter to MP Ryan Leef: You should be applauded for your efforts to prevent the closures of the SS Klondike and Dredge No. 4, but the scope of your discussions is not wide enough.


Open letter to MP Ryan Leef:

You should be applauded for your efforts to prevent the closures of the SS Klondike and Dredge No. 4, but the scope of your discussions is not wide enough. There are other issues linked to the Parks Canada budget cuts that should cause great concern, and I haven’t heard you say what you are doing about them.

In your discussions with officials from Parks Canada, and with Finance Minister Jim Flaherty’s office, have you raised the more fundamental issue that the cuts have reduced the funding here in the Yukon, below the level which would allow Parks Canada to fulfill its mandate to preserve our national treasures for future generations?

It’s fine to pursue the guided tours on the SS Klondike and at Dredge No. 4; the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon has made it clear how important these sites are to a healthy tourism economy. But don’t forget that they weren’t established as tourism attractions – they are being preserved for the education and enjoyment of future generations of Canadians.

Parks Canada has excelled in preserving historic sites for future generations, but they are rapidly losing the skill sets and capacity to do so in the future. The cuts imposed on Parks Canada are not something new; they have been going on now for more than 30 years. The recent cut announced May 2 of last year was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back.

Does Parks Canada now have the capacity to maintain resources like the SS Klondike, the SS Keno and Dredge No. 4 over the long run? These are major assets that demand engineering capability and support from a team of craftsmen. Have you discussed with Parks Canada whether they can now maintain these, and their many other assets in the Yukon so that they will survive for the enjoyment and enlightenment of future generations?

The private sector may be willing to take on the offering of tours to visitors as a business venture, but if they had to shoulder the responsibility and the costs for maintaining these assets, I’m sure that they couldn’t make a profitable business case. I am sure that they are more than delighted to guide tours as long as they don’t have to figure out how to keep the stacker on the dredge from collapsing, or the decks of the Klondike from leaking.

The furnishings that give the Klondike its authentic period appearance were created through the efforts of a large team of curators, conservators and historians who gathered the information, then the artifacts necessary to create the historic appearance. The team who maintained the exhibits on the Klondike and throughout the Yukon have been eliminated: two curators, a conservator and a collections specialist. In fact, the specialists in Winnipeg who provided support to the staff in the Yukon are gone as well.

There is now no one who can maintain these to a quality standard. Within a few years, without these people behind the scenes, the exhibit on the Klondike, and the exhibits found at other national historic sites in the territory will lose their lustre. They will fade from exposure to light, rust from exposure to moisture and become damaged by water leaks, vandalism and misadventure. They won’t look good any more, and even the private sector will no longer be willing to show them to visitors. They can’t afford the price of hiring curators, conservators and others to maintain these assets.

These same staff were the ones who created new and appealing exhibits that enhance the commemoration of our history, and entertain our visitors. With them gone, the old exhibits will never change, they will simply grow stale.

The cultural assets of Parks Canada in the Yukon are worth between $50 million and $100 million, but the staff who maintained these assets has been reduced, or eliminated entirely. I can’t imagine anyone seeing the sense in allowing a treasure so valuable to be unsecured and uncared for.

These are more than tourism assets, they are iconic symbols of the development and achievements of our nation, and they are to be handed over to our grandchildren. The problem is that they will become shabby unless we can change the direction that funding is headed.

I think even the tourism industry would like to see these treasures properly cared for. The question now is, who is going to step up to the plate?

Michael Gates is an historian, author, and writes the History Hunter column in the Yukon News. He was also curator of collections at Klondike National Historic Sites in Dawson City for 20 years.

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

Just Posted

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before conducting a test with it on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
An inside look at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre

As the active COVID-19 case count grew last week, so too did… Continue reading

Conservation officers search for a black bear in the Riverdale area in Whitehorse on Sept. 17. The Department of Environment intends to purchase 20 semi-automatic AR-10 rifles, despite the inclusion of the weapons in a recently released ban introduced by the federal government, for peace officers, such as conservation officers. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Environment Minister defends purchase of AR-10 rifles for conservation officers

The federal list of banned firearms includes an exception for peace officers

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The K-shaped economic recovery and what Yukoners can do about it

It looks like COVID-19 will play the role of Grinch this holiday… Continue reading

Jodie Gibson has been named the 2020 Prospector of the Year by the Yukon Prospectors Association. (Submitted)
Jodie Gibson named 2020 Prospector of the Year

Annual award handed out by the Yukon Prospector’s Association

A number 55 is lit in honour of Travis Adams, who died earlier this year, at the Winter Wonderland Walk at Meadow Lakes Golf Club in Whitehorse on Nov. 24. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
A new take on holiday traditions

Winter Wonderland Walk, virtual Stories with Santa all part of 2020 festive events in Whitehorse

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Karen Wenkebach has been appointed as a judge for the Yukon Supreme Court. (Yukon News file)
New justice appointed

Karen Wenckebach has been appointed as a judge for the Supreme Court… Continue reading

Catherine Constable, the city’s manager of legislative services, speaks at a council and senior management (CASM) meeting about CASM policy in Whitehorse on June 13, 2019. Constable highlighted research showing many municipalities require a lengthy notice period before a delegate can be added to the agenda of a council meeting. Under the current Whitehorse procedures bylaw, residents wanting to register as delegates are asked to do so by 11 a.m. on the Friday ahead of the council meeting. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Changes continue to be contemplated for procedures bylaw

Registration deadline may be altered for delegates

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Most Read