On the first day of the new Yukon legislative assembly sitting in Whitehorse on Mar. 3, demonstrators opposed to the government’s anti-COVID-19 public health measures and vaccine mandates marched to the legislature. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

On the first day of the new Yukon legislative assembly sitting in Whitehorse on Mar. 3, demonstrators opposed to the government’s anti-COVID-19 public health measures and vaccine mandates marched to the legislature. (Jim Elliot/Yukon News)

Ukraine, COVID-19 and opioids all first-day topics for returning MLAs

The three territorial governments have asked for more dialogue on arctic sovereignty.

There were no first-day jitters at the legislature on March 4. While the government focused the bulk of the day on the budget speech, current events around the world also featured on the floor of the house for the first day of the spring sitting.

During question period, opposition parties had a chance to pick up where they left off the last sitting. They resumed grilling the government on many of the same topics that were brought up during the last sitting – and at some points, recycling old quips and hearing some of the same answers.


The situation in Ukraine featured heavily in opening remarks at the legislative sitting on Thursday. Yesterday the legislature raised the Ukrainian flag.

Silver said the territory is working with the federal government on bringing Ukrainian refugees to the country and finding them employment in the Yukon. Opposition leaders Currie Dixon and Kate White, who both attended a rally on Sunday supporting the country, also called on the government to provide any support possible.

Silver referred to a letter signed by the premiers of the three territories that called on the Council of the Federation to add “Arctic Sovereignty and Security” as an agenda item for an upcoming meeting agenda.

“Clearly this issue is taking on greater significance and we would be best served as a nation by stronger dialogue on this issue,” reads the letter, dated March 3 and signed by Silver, Northwest Territories Premier Caroline Cochrane and Nunavut Premier P.J. Akeeagok.

The three premiers wrote another letter, this one to the prime minister, calling on Canada to bolster border security in the Arctic.


During a press conference on March 2 the premier and chief medical officer Catherine Elliott announced a plan to end all public health restrictions remaining in the territory. Masks and proof-of-vaccination will no longer be required as of March 18, and many unvaccinated employees will be recalled in April.

The Yukon Party had previously asked for those changes, but in the House on Thursday raised suspicions about the timing of the announcement, which took place the day before the legislature resumed.

MLA Scott Kent accused the premier of withdrawing the “nonsensical restrictions” so the government wouldn’t have to face criticism during the legislative question period.

“It certainly seems that the timing of this is based on political science as much as anything else, Mr. Speaker, so can the premier explain why the vaccine mandate needs to be in place today, but not on April 4,” said Kent.

“We go with science,” responded Silver. “With recommendations from the chief medical officer of health, we are in a position to lift the state of emergency — and yet the opposition is not happy with that.”

Security was beefed up on Thursday, with extra cameras and extra guards installed around entrances. A group of demonstrators opposed to vaccination mandates and other public health measures marched from the Elijah Smith Building downtown to the legislature.

They joined a group that was already there standing alongside Second Avenue for a total of about 30 people. The group then waved to cars on the street some of which honked their horns as they passed. No protesters appeared to enter the legislature building or sat in on assembly proceedings.


White compared the opioid crisis to the treatment of the flooding in the Southern Lakes last summer. She asked what would have happened if – instead of responding on the ground – the government had invited flood experts to an online summit.

“Imagine if instead, the government reacted like we just recently saw on the summit. The experts who all said the same thing: ‘Yes, the Yukon has a flooding problem. Yes, people tell us we’re being flooded as we speak,’” she said. “So how many more conversations, how many more summits and experts to call before this government offers real support Yukoners who are dying of preventable drug poisoning deaths today?”

McPhee responded she was “extremely disappointed” to hear disparaging remarks about the summit. She defended the event, noting that 550 people tuned in and heard from global experts on mental wellness.

“The focus of the summit was education and to spark conversation to spark ideas here in the territory. It did just that,” she said. She said the comments by White were not helpful.

“The NDP would have Yukoners believe that the solutions to this emergency are easy, and reality is the root causes are complex and the situations require that we all work together,” she added.

McPhee said the government is taking action, including an awareness campaign and plans to expand the safe consumption site for use of inhalants, extending drug testing and opioid treatment services to rural communities and providing increased funding to community partners.

–With files from Jim Elliot

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Yukon legislative assembly