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Yukon’s military call up doesn’t signal health system emergency: minister

Official Opposition rips into territorial government’s move to bring in undeployed health workers
The Whitehorse General Hospital is seen from the parking lot of the legislature on April 16. Earlier this week, inside the Yukon Legislative Assembly, the Official Opposition questioned the state of the health system as the territorial government prepares to bring undeployed Canadian military medical professionals to work and train at hospitals and health workplaces across the territory. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Calling in the military isn’t an admission that the Yukon’s health system is in a state of crisis, according to the territorial health minister.

Health and Social Services Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee was pressed on the Yukon government’s decision to sign a memorandum of understanding with the federal Department of National Defence that will lead to undeployed doctors, nurses and other health workers from the Canadian Forces Health Services coming to work and train in the Yukon.

During the question period in the legislature on April 15, Yukon Party health critic Brad Cathers asked the minister to admit that bringing in the military is a “clear sign that our health-care system is in a state of emergency.”

McPhee defended the move as an opportunity for those military health-care professionals to maintain and build on their knowledge and skills between deployments.

“It is an option and a solution that we are very proud of. I expect the rest of the provinces and territories in Canada will be lining up to do the same,” McPhee said.

Cathers suggested McPhee has been “brushing off” concerns from the Official Opposition, medical professionals and patients about the state of the health system.

Cathers cited McPhee recently claiming that “Yukoners are served by the best hospital system — perhaps in Canada” in his second question. He wondered why the military is being brought in if everything is fine.

“You don’t usually call in the military to help when things are going well. No other jurisdiction in the country has had to take this unprecedented step,” Cathers said.

McPhee said the idea came from the frontlines in January.

“This flows directly from our government’s Health Human Resources Strategy, which was released last December of 2023, and Yukoners accessing health care services will see enhanced patient care, shorter wait times and increased access to our health-care system,” she said.

Premier Ranj Pillai stepped in to respond to Cathers’ third question about the governing Yukon Liberal Party mismanaging health care so badly since being in power that they must call in the military.

“The other side of the floor has asked for innovation. We have gone out and built an innovative agreement with the Canadian Armed Forces to ensure that the proud members of the Canadian Armed Forces can come and keep their certification up when they are not deployed — at zero cost to us, so we don’t have to add that to our budgets,” Pillai said.

Pillai reiterated that 10 nurses will be arriving here in April.

“But that’s a problem, and instead, it’s a spin about a challenge instead of innovation,” he said.

Contact Dana Hatherly at

Dana Hatherly

About the Author: Dana Hatherly

I’m the legislative reporter for the Yukon News.
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