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This week’s mailbox: the impact of residential schools, Whitehorse Connects, wildfires

Dear Editor;
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Dear Editor;

Anguish – extreme pain, distress or anxiety. Justice – the quality of being just, righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness. Criminal – relating to, involving, or being a crime; guilty of crime; disgraceful. Disgraceful: shockingly unacceptable.

Canada’s First Nations warned us for decades of a day of reckoning. The TK’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation, in preliminary findings, using advanced technology through a survey of ground-penetrating radar discovered two hundred fifteen buried children. Taken from their parents, their home, their culture, shipped to the largest residential school in Canada, the Kamloops Residential School burial grounds bare witness to Canada’s atrocity. Atrocity – “an extremely wicked or cruel act, typically one involving physical violence or injury.”

Think of it. Think of this happening to you: the mother, the father, the brother, the sister witnessing a loved child forcibly removed, never to be seen again. Sir John A’s federal government policy to assimilate or destroy, gave politicians, agents, church hierarchy, priests, nuns and lay people the task of implementing a racist doctrine.

Our platitudes of “the tragedy, the injustice, the horror” is evidence of willful inertia to speak words with no commitment. Until we actively embrace, no matter the cost, to reconcile – “cause to coexist in harmony; make or show to be compatible” in substantive, tangible reparations for what we’ve done there will be no justice. There can be no reconciliation.

The decision by our government to appeal a Canadian Human Rights Tribunal ruling ordering we pay $40,000 each to some 50,000 First Nations children impacted by residential schools is extant evidence platitudes, not justice, continues.

“Fighting a tribunal decision that widened the applicability of Jordan’s Principle, a rule stating that when governments disagree about who’s responsible for providing services to First Nations children, they must help a child in need first and argue over the bills later” (Canadian Press) is extant evidence platitudes, not justice, continues.

We can’t honestly believe “it wasn’t my fault, this happened long before me,” is sufficient response to historic tragedy. If we choose to be unwilling or indifferent to act now for what we know to be just, we are at fault and it isn’t happening “long before me.”

Valerie Fromme

Faro, Y.T.

Be wildfire-wary

Like many Whitehorse residents, eight weeks ago I looked at the mountains of snow in my yard and thought that the wildfire risk would be zero this year. Even last week with the cloudy wet weather my wildfire fears were still far off.

Then the sun began to shine and the wind began to blow. On Monday the fire rating for Whitehorse was Moderate. But then on Tuesday it was High. And yesterday (Wednesday) it reached Extreme. You don’t need the internet to tell you this – just go walking in the forest and listen to the crunch under your feet.

The City and YG are doing a lot of work to reduce the fire risk in the forest south of town. But only what you and I do to ‘firesmart’ our houses, to fix the places where wildfire embers could start a house fire, will protect our homes. Just search ‘Firesmart Whitehorse’ to learn what you can do to reduce the wildfire risk to your property.

Stu Clark

Whitehorse

A call to end public funding for faith-based education

As an avid reader, I am writing to express my extreme opposition to the Yukon government funding of religious or faith-based education or charities across the territory. With the recent news of the remains of 215 children found buried at the Kamloops Indian Residential School (originally ran by the Catholic Church); I think it’s time and beneficial to the healing of our community members that the Yukon government move away from funding religious or faith-based education or charities across the territory.

Approximately 70 per cent of the forced Indian Residential Schooling in Canada was completed by the Roman Catholic Church at the discretion of the Canadian government. On May 31, 2021 Premier Hon. Sandy Silver sent out a global note stating “our government remains committed to working with our First Nations partners to advance reconciliation.”

Yet, the Roman Catholic Church refuses to formally apologize for its role in Canada’s policy of forced Indigenous assimilation and Indian Residential Schooling. In addition, the Roman Catholic Church is reluctant to release residential schools’ records which would help identify the missing or murdered children across Canada.

The Yukon government still publicly funds, owns and maintains three Catholic schools in the Yukon: Vanier Catholic Secondary School, Christ the King Elementary School and Holy Family Elementary School.

In addition to the funding of religious education by the Yukon government there is $368,506 issued in government transfers to religious charities in 2018 (Centre for Inquiry, Canada). Surely this has increased since 2018!

If Yukoners are committed to real change and real reconciliation, we would have a separation between church and state. Enough is enough. I hope you will feel compelled in helping to call out the Yukon government in making real change and raise the question why Yukoners are still publicly funding religious institutions in the territory!

Thank you,

Michael Edwards

Whitehorse Connects a success

Whitehorse Connects is an opportunity for people to come together for a range of volunteer and health and human services they might not otherwise access. Since 2008, the Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition (YAPC) has hosted three Whitehorse Connects events almost every year, and at our most recent event on May 18th, we welcomed over 350 people!

For the first time ever, we had a pop-up veterinary clinic on site, organized by Samantha Salter and the teams from the Humane Society, Alpine Veterinary Medical Centre and Kona’s Coalition. Pet ID tags were supplied in addition to clinical services and 12 pets and owners were well looked after!

Inside the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre (KDCC), a free tax clinic was available and a booth was set up for status cards. GBP Creative took many beautiful portraits, some with the furry friends that also visited the vet clinic!

The Outreach Van welcomed people looking for support and as usual, there was free clothing and live music. Many thanks to the talented musicians and for all the donations of sleeping bags, warm clothes and shoes! During this event, the pandemic restrictions were still in place. The incredible staff at KDCC and amazing volunteers organized the crowds so the event could be safe and enjoyable for everyone.

The Health Promotion Unit and students from the F.H. Collins Social Justice Club are to be thanked for the delicious BBQ, and G-P Distributing topped off the meal with a generous donation of ice-cream, that we all enjoyed.

Hendricks Barber Shop, Beautiful You and Slicker’s Hair Design donated 25 haircuts collectively. A special thank you also goes out to Patrick Jackson who raised more than $13,000 by walking the Dempster Highway in April, raising funds for events like this. The continuing community support for Whitehorse Connects is so appreciated as is the company of everyone who came!

We look forward to the next Whitehorse Connects set for October 19th from 10 to 2 pm at the KDCC.

Sincerely,

Meesha Wittkopf

Coordinator

Whitehorse Connects