Watson Lake soup kitchen serving record numbers

With the Liard First Nation government layoffs in Watson Lake showing no sign of ending, the soup kitchen and food bank are helping record numbers of families. 

With the Liard First Nation government layoffs in Watson Lake showing no sign of ending, the soup kitchen and food bank are helping record numbers of families.

The St. Vincent de Paul Soup Kitchen usually sees about 15 people come in for soup when it’s open on Fridays, and about the same number of families needing a food hamper.

Since the government layoffs late last year, those numbers have been steadily climbing, said Fred Statham, who runs the soup kitchen and food bank.

“It’s actually gone up by about five or so on average. Since the layoffs we’re up to about 20 soups and 20 hampers, on average,” Statham said.

He said the numbers tend to spike towards the end of each month. At the end of February, 27 food hampers were handed out alongside 31 bowls of soup.

“It looks like the layoffs are having an impact,” Statham said.

There are so many people asking for food that Statham said the soup kitchen and food bank will likely open on Mondays as well as Fridays starting in April.

“Based on studying our numbers over the last two years, Mondays and Fridays seem to be the busiest days,” he said.

In his first move as the newly-elected chief, Daniel Morris laid off almost the entire Liard First Nation staff after he came to power in January. More than forty people in all were told there isn’t enough money to pay them.

Morris has not spoken publicly since the election. The First Nation’s executive director, George Morgan (who ran against Morris in the election) is the government’s spokesman.

He said that record numbers at the soup kitchen and food bank is news too him, but that his government is working diligently to sort out its financial woes and get people back to work.

“We completed our 2012/13 audit. That’s been done, but we’re doing some final touch-ups on that. We’re still trying to get an accurate picture of our current financial situation, which we don’t currently have yet,” Morgan said.

As soon as the government books are in order, the First Nation can begin hiring back its employees, Morgan said.

“We’re working very hard to get people back to work,” he said.

The First Nation’s finances are also being looked at by the federal government. The results of that audit are still pending.

Since the election, Morgan has blamed the previous administration for the government’s financial difficulties, laying the blame for the layoffs at former chief Liard McMillan’s feet.

McMillan has disputed that assertion. Under his leadership, the First Nation met its auditing responsibilities every year and never had to lay people off, he told the News in January. He also claimed that according to his record keeping, the government should have more than enough money in the bank to cover its payroll – which he says is around $50,000 per month – until the audits are finished and money starts flowing again.

Contact Jesse Winter at


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

Just Posted

The Many Rivers Counselling and Support Services building in Whitehorse on March 28, 2019. Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed for good say they were relieved to hear that the Yukon RCMP has undertaken a forensic audit into the now-defunct NGO’s financial affairs. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Former Many Rivers board members relieved to hear about forensic audit, wonder what took so long

Three people who sat on Many Rivers’ board immediately before it closed… Continue reading

Whitehorse General Hospital in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. The Yukon Employees’ Union and Yukon Hospital Corporation are at odds over whether there’s a critical staffing shortage at the territory’s hospitals. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
YEU, Yukon Hospital Corp. at odds over whether hospitals are understaffed

YEU says four nurses quit within 12 hours last week, a claim the YHC says is “inaccurate”

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates, Ray Hartling and Mark Lange, have filed a class action against the jail, corrections officials and Yukon government on behalf of everyone who’s been placed in two restrictive units over the past six years. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Class action filed against Whitehorse Correctional Centre over use of segregation

Two former Whitehorse Correctional Centre inmates have filed a class action against… Continue reading


Wyatt’s World for Oct. 21, 2020

Movie poster for <em>Ìfé,</em> a movie being shown during OUT North Film Festival, which includes approximately 20 different films accessible online this year. (Submitted)
OUT North Film Festival moves to virtual format

In its ninth year, the artistic director said this year has a more diverse set of short and feature films

Triple J’s Canna Space in Whitehorse on April 17, 2019, opens their first container of product. Two years after Canada legalized the sale of cannabis, Yukon leads the country in per capita legal sales. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon leads Canadian cannabis sales two years after legalization

Private retailers still asking for changes that would allow online sales

A sign greets guests near the entrance of the Canada Games Centre in Whitehorse on June 11. The city announced Oct. 16 it was moving into the next part of its phased reopening plan with spectator seating areas open at a reduced capacity to allow for physical distancing. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
CGC reopening continues

Limited spectator seating now available

During Whitehorse city council’s Oct. 19 meeting, planning manager Mélodie Simard brought forward a recommendation that a proposed Official Community Plan amendment move forward that would designate a 56.3 hectare piece of land in Whistle Bend, currently designated as green space, as urban residential use. (Courtesy City of Whitehorse)
More development in Whistle Bend contemplated

OCP change would be the first of several steps to develop future area

EDITORIAL: Don’t let the City of Whitehorse distract you

A little over two weeks after Whitehorse city council voted to give… Continue reading

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Northwestel has released the proposed prices for its unlimited plans. Unlimited internet in Whitehorse and Carcross could cost users between $160.95 and $249.95 per month depending on their choice of package. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet options outlined

Will require CRTC approval before Northwestel makes them available

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse. Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting instead of 30 days to make up for lost time caused by COVID-19 in the spring. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Legislative assembly sitting extended

Yukon’s territorial government will sit for 45 days this sitting. The extension… Continue reading

Today’s mailbox: Mad about MAD

Letters to the editor published Oct. 16, 2020

Most Read