Territory-wide 911 service could be up and running tomorrow, should the Yukon government desire it, says Cameron Zubko, chief operating officer of Ice Wireless.
The company is currently in discussions with the Yukon government to provide 911 service that would cover any phone call made from within the Yukon, including all land lines and cell phones.
But last week Community Services Minister Brad Cathers said the government is working on an “interim” 911 solution through NorthwesTel that would allow people outside of Whitehorse to reach a recording menu.
The service would require the person calling to press “1” to call police, “2” to call an ambulance and “3” for the fire department.
That doesn’t qualify as basic 911 service under the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s definition. As a result, NorthwesTel would have to apply to have the service approved through the regulator.
Zubko said there is no technical hold up.
“All we would need is for the Yukon government to accept our proposal and we’re prepared to move ahead with 911 services in the Yukon immediately.”
Cathers said that his department only received Ice Wireless’ proposal three days ago.
Zubko said the company has been in discussions with the government for a few weeks.
Under the company’s proposal, any 911 call would be routed to one of the company’s dispatch centres in Canada or Romania, where a certified operator would assess their situation and send the appropriate emergency responders.
This service, through parent company Iristel, has been in place for more than a decade, and is used by millions of Canadians, said Zubko.
Anyone in Whitehorse with an Ice Wireless cell phone already has access to this service.
It is already certified by all the appropriate national bodies, so no further regulatory approval would be required to extend the service to the rest of Yukon, said Zubko.
Rob Hopkins, who chairs the telecommunications committee of Yukon’s Utilities Consumers’ Group, said he is confident that Ice Wireless’ plan would work for the Yukon.
“There is no real risk in that, because this is how the rest of the world operates on this stuff,” he said.
“I’m calling on an Iristel phone right now, which is part of Ice Wireless. I’ve had 911 service in Tagish for over two years now.”
Cathers said some communities have expressed concern about 911 calls being routed to a call centre outside of the community.
“There is local community concern about ensuring that dispatch operators understand the community. That’s one of the specific concerns we’ve heard from some Yukon municipalities about moving even to a Whitehorse-based 911 dispatch system.”
The Yukon government has been working with NorthwesTel, the RCMP and other stakeholders to establish a integrated dispatch facility in Whitehorse for the whole territory.
But the space built for that purpose, in the emergency services building at the top of Two Mile Hill, remains empty. There’s little word from the government on why those discussions have stalled.
“That project is one that both affected municipalities and agencies as well as NorthwesTel have indicated that they feel it’s going to take time to work towards single integrated dispatch that meets the needs of all involved,” said Cathers.
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at