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Today’s mailbox: Age-friendly communities and bears

Letters to the editor published Dec. 30, 2020

Age-friendly communities under COVID-19

Over the last year, the Yukon has taken a lot of concrete steps to support and provide services that better address the needs of people of all ages — medical appointments by phone; on-line meetings, courses, fitness and entertainment using Zoom or other audio or video conferencing; attention to the standards required for safe residential care; and most importantly building better inter-generational and community connections with family, neighbours and friends.

These are all steps toward creating a community that supports the health, participation and security of all, regardless of age.

The July 2020 report, Tackling Corona Virus (COVID-19): Contributing to a Global Effort by the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, provides actions taken by various global cities to support citizens facing the pandemic. Many of these strategies can provide long-term solutions to supporting age-friendly communities that benefit not only older people but people of any age.

In a time when many people are isolated and may be living alone, we need to increase ways to connect with each other. Some people have no or limited access to internet or cellphone service, or the service may be unreliable, especially in rural locations. Locally the Yukon Status of Women Council arranged for about 400 cellphones to be distributed to women in need of support. Yukon Computers for Schools offers reasonably priced or free refurbished computers for students in need. Community sponsored programs funded by United Way, provided computers and or internet access to older adults and women’s transition homes throughout Yukon.

For those with a computer and internet, Yukon Learn in partnership with Elder Active Recreation Association provides a free Seniors Outreach Computer Tutor program using Zoom videoconferencing. For information on the topics and how to register contact ted.ackerman@yukonlearn.com.

The Canada Games Centre, Whitehorse General Hospital and Whitehorse Public Library as well as many of the food and beverage outlets offer free WiFi for their customers and patrons. Is it time for government to offer free internet service for residents of social and seniors housing, long-term care facilities, and homeless shelters?

Parents and teachers are scrambling to support students with their online learning. The Department of Education and Yukon University could partner with local TV stations to offer programs to support children’s and adult learning as has been done globally.

All levels of government and community groups must recognize that not everyone chooses or is able to use social media like Facebook or has access to printers. Lengthy reports on government policy, strategic plans or other detailed information should be readily available as a hard copy, in addition to copies offered online.

During COVID-19, outdoor activities are considered safer than indoor activities. With our recent heavy snowfalls, it has been a challenge to keep our sidewalks clear and free of snow and ice. This should be a priority for business, property owners and municipal governments to ensure people don’t slip and fall.

Clean and accessible bathrooms should be readily available in public buildings and spaces. Some cities have allowed expansion of outdoor terraces on sidewalks, heated outdoor dining spaces, warming shelters and closed streets for pedestrian walkways to accommodate physical distancing. Curbside concerts near housing facilities and drive-in outdoor film showings or concerts or winter picnics at government and city recreation and parks sites provide outdoor entertainment for all ages.

Milan, Italy’s Adaptation Plan 2020 asks: “Are we looking to ‘benefit’ from the crisis and take a leap forward to improve our city and quality of life?”

It is a good question for all of us as we consider the COVID-19 action steps taken that could further support our move toward age-friendly communities.

Lillian Nakamura Maguire

Seniors Action Yukon Co-Facilitator

Local man picks one special interest group over another

Editor’s note: the author is a contributor to Grizzly Bear Protection Yukon’s website.

Hunting season has wrapped up for this year, and it’s instructive to review some of the statements published by the Yukon Fish and Game Association during the season, with regard to grizzly bears.

In September, the association took it upon itself to warn us all that “the call for a moratorium on grizzly hunting by a small, newly formed special interest group is of grave concern to the association, our members, and other stakeholder groups.”

Although the association does not name the group that it is so worried about, it’s clear to those who follow these developments that the group referred to is Grizzly Bear Protection Yukon.

The association went on to claim that “harvesting of mature boars in spring is recognized as a conservation management tool to preserve and or enhance not only ungulate populations but also grizzly and black bear populations.”

On the contrary, killing mature male bears in spring (let’s disregard the euphemism “harvesting” and call it what it is), has quite the opposite effect; lack of sexually mature males in the population impairs fecundity of female bears. The reproductive cycle of grizzlies is highly precarious, and if a pregnant mother bear does not obtain enough food reserves to take her through hibernation, the delayed implantation of her offspring will result in her losing them.

“Hunting of bears is deeply rooted in northern cultures,” the association claims. That may be true for the dominant population, but not for northern Indigenous cultures, who maintain an ingrained respect for grizzlies and seldom hunt them.

Population surveys that the association cites as proof of the stability of grizzly populations are not really reliable indicators. The best population estimates date back to the 80s, and are based more on anecdotal observation rather than scientifically-based statistical data. The sustainability limits which the association extols may well prove to be illusory in the long run.

When it comes to determining the true facts about the Yukon’s grizzly population, I think that I’ll stick to those expounded by Grizzly Bear Protection Yukon, despite all the warnings from Yukon Fish and Game Association about special interest groups.

Brian Eaton

Whitehorse, Yukon

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