The City of Whitehorse’s annual student exchange program with the Japanese city of Ushiku has once again been cancelled for the year.
In an announcement on the City of Whitehorse website, officials said the exchange is cancelled due to COVID-19.
“As always, the city will proudly fly Ushiku’s flag on the fourth Monday in June, in recognition of the strong relationship that dates back to 1985,” it reads. “We hope to see you in 2022.”
The exchange program typically alternates each year between an Ushiku delegation coming to Whitehorse and a Whitehorse delegation going to Ushiku. The visiting group stays with local families in the host city.
The exchange was last held in 2019 when Whitehorse hosted 13 youth between the ages of 13 and 18 and their chaperones from Ushiku.
Youth from families that are billeting exchange students also get to take in the activities offered by the host community.
The 2020 exchange, which would have seen a Whitehorse contingent visit Ushiku, was initially postponed due to the 2020 Olympics that were set to be held in Tokyo from July 24 to Aug. 9. Tokyo is a couple of hours from Ushiku and the Olympics were anticipated to impact travel logistics, school schedules in Ushiku and the availability of host families.
Ultimately, due to COVID-19, the Olympics were postponed and are now planned for July 23 to Aug. 8, 2021 with COVID-19 protocols in place.
Lindsay Agar, events coordinator with the city, said it’s hoped a Whitehorse delegation will be able to visit Ushiku in 2022, though the health and safety of participants will come first.
In the meantime, officials in the two cities continue to be in touch with possibilities being considered for a Zoom meeting between the two councils at some point. Agar noted though that technology, time zone differences and availability of members of both councils all have to be considered before that can happen.
During previous exchanges, those taking part in the exchange in Whitehorse visited places like First Nations cultural centers, the Yukon Wildlife Preserve and took in activities like canoeing the Yukon River. That was along with any activities their host family might do in the evenings and on weekends.
Similarly, when the Whitehorse contingent visits Ushiku, they take in the popular sites and activities there with the group as well as any activities their host families might do in the evenings or on weekends.