Government approved highway routes through the Yukon for those traveling back to Alaska from south of 60. (Yukon News composite)

UPDATED: Yukon government clarifies businesses available to travellers

Travellers can stop anywhere along the approved route in one of the marked communities

The Yukon government has clarified that the names of businesses attached to maps given to those transiting the territories was never meant to be a definitive list of eligible places to stop after opposition expressed concerns of businesses being left off the list.

Community Services information officers Maria Gosselin and Diana Dryburgh-Moraal provided clarifications on where travellers can stop.

Gosselin said the first run of maps, released on May 8, included individual business listings of places to stop to get necessities.

“We were attempting to provide a few suggested options for travellers along their designated route,” Gosselin said.

Travellers are given one of four maps, depending on the destination in Alaska and or point of entry to the territory, outlining which roads travellers are allowed to be on during their 24-hour transit through the Yukon. The four routes are Watson Lake to the northern Alaska border; the Highway 37 junction to the same border crossing; Watson Lake to Haines, Alaska; and Watson Lake to Skagway, Alaska.

People transiting through the Yukon are allowed to stop for gas, food or fuel at businesses as long as it on the specific mandated route.

The map includes a sheet of instructions on the Yukon’s COVID-19 orders, including the fact travellers have 24 hours to get through the territory.

Dryburgh-Moraal clarified that the original run of maps never limited travellers to the listed businesses. They could stop to get essentials at any location along the approved route.

Gosselin said the territory decided to remove business listings and instead of marking businesses, it was decided to mark communities where people could stop for essentials. Travellers must stick to the marked communities for stops.

Dryburgh-Moraal explained that this was changed because there were too many businesses to list on the handout.

“Businesses were removed because these are printed on letter-sized paper and there’s simply not enough room to list every potential business a traveller could encounter along the highways,” Dryburgh-Moraal said. “Instead, we’ve starred the communities where travellers can stop along the highway (their designated travel corridor) to access gas, food and accommodation, if needed.”

She clarified that as long as the stop is along the approved route, it is acceptable. No one transitioning through the territory should go off the mandated route, she said, meaning an American driving through the territory to get back to Alaska should not be in downtown Whitehorse.

There are however, legitimate reasons why people are seeing Alaska plates in downtown Whitehorse. In the eyes of the Yukon government, both Skagway and Haines residents are permitted to come to Whitehorse for an “essential purpose”.

Americans could also be in the territory to perform a critical or essential service, she adds.

The Canada Border Services Agency would not answer multiple requests for an answer on if groceries were a valid reason for entry for residents of Skagway and Haines.

The CBSA did provide a statement, saying “travel by healthy non-symptomatic individuals for whom crossing the border on a day-to-day basis is essential for work and daily life will still be permitted to cross the border.”

“Some examples of non-discretionary (essential) travel purposes include but are not limited to: crossing the border for work and study; economic services and supply chains; critical infrastructure support; health (immediate medical care), safety and security; shopping for essential goods such as medication or goods necessary to preserve the health and safety of an individual or family; and other activities at the discretion of the border services officer.”

In a May 29 statement, the CBSA further clarified that “crossing the border for goods such as medication, groceries and other necessary goods has to be the only practical/realistic option for it to be considered a non-discretionary (essential) reason for travel.”

Contact Gord Fortin at gord.fortin@yukon-news.com

This story has been updated to include a statement from the CBSA.

Correction: A previous version of this story quoted Dryburgh-Moraal stating that, in the Yukon government’s eyes, Haines or Skagway residents could come to Whitehorse to get groceries. Minister of Community Services John Streicker informed the News on June 1 that that statement was “not correct,” as it’s the Canadian Border Services Agency, not the territory, that determines who can cross the border. Streicker also said it was never the government’s position that Skagway or Haines residents could cross the border to get groceries.

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