Today’s mailbox: Biases and the Yukon Spirit

Letters to the editor published June 26

The time is now to recognize biases

A few years ago, when the world grappled with displaced citizens of Afghanistan and Canada was on the cusp of a political shift, CBC radio hosted a call-in show to air public opinion on immigration in Canada. One caller from Alberta enthusiastically spoke of his gratefulness for the immigrants in his community. He further explained that the immigrants were filling jobs that would otherwise not be taken by resident Canadians and this made for a better functioning community. At the time, there was a shortage of workers in sectors like the retail and service industries. The host and caller finished their conversation in a congratulatory manner, promoting their positivity and welcoming attitude to other ethnic groups.

Herein lies one of the subtle underpinnings to Canada’s systemic racism. In a study published in 2019, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives found that income inequality of racialized workers persisted over the last decade. Over this same period, University of Toronto conducted two experiments that demonstrated that applicants with non-English names were far less likely to be given an interview despite having competitive skill sets. Welcoming of non-white people into lower paying positions inadvertently sends a subliminal message to Canadian society that this is where they belong. It becomes an expectation that more work for less pay can be expected of non-white workers. Yukon is a very good example of this. It is not by chance that our big box stores have a much higher proportion of non-white employees in lower paying positions than the offices of Yukon Government, which house workers of enviable pay and benefits.

I can attest to this attitude on a personal level, being non-white, and often being asked whether I work as a cashier, and even being approached by a shopkeeper on Main Street in Whitehorse who needed retail persons. This is hauntingly similar to the narrow-mindedness of the Ontario town where I endured most of my childhood and was repeatedly asked whether my family ran the restaurant (we did not), amid more explicit racist derisions. This was the era when CTV’s documentary program, W5, claimed that foreign students were displacing Canadians applying for entry into universities. The so-called “foreign students” included non-white Canadians. It was also the era when commercials with stereotyped ethnic groups were acceptable, for example Calgon’s “ancient Chinese secret” pointing to the history of Chinese-run laundromats serving white people.

To clarify, I am not a cashier, I am a professional with a graduate degree. I can only brush off so many irksome questions as they do indicate a more serious insensitivity. I have had more than my share of obstacles in pursuit of a career, seeing white people take credit for my work, being excluded from professional training, having worked for lower pay or for no compensation alongside paid white employees, or being passed over for less-qualified white applicants. Some decisions were no doubt due to subconscious stereotyping, as non-white persons are uncommon in my profession in Canada. A very basic way to gauge bias is to time the amount of eye contact given by a person in a meeting involving few participants. Typically, the white person beside me receives a disproportionate amount of that eye contact, often over eighty per cent.

Now that it is trendy to be part of the “Black Lives Matter” anti-racist movement and its closely related “Me too” movement, there is another social group that needs to be recognized and dealt with. It is the “Not me” mindset, including those who believe they can rightly absolve themselves from being part of the problem of inequality because they have jumped on the moralistic bandwagon decrying discrimination. Combating racism is not just about conscious thoughts and actions; it is also about subconscious attitudes that show up as biased actions and trends in peoples’ behaviours. These subconscious parts of racism are widespread and engrained. Addressing this requires introspection. Until the entitled sector of society is willing to do this work, and to give up some of its wealth and advantages, the fight against racial inequality faces an insurmountable uphill battle.

Maria Leung


The Yukon Spirit is Alive and Well

We would like to extend our sincere thanks to some Yukoners who recently helped us out.

A big shout out to Dale Best of the Coal Mine Campground in Carmacks; he is the epitome of the Yukon spirit!

Not only were we able to store our canoe and gear at the campground, but he went above and beyond by lending us a vehicle to drive back to Whitehorse, when our arranged ride fell through.

Thank you to the three young men who stopped to help our daughter when her car broke down on the side of the highway. They not only drove her back to Braeburn where she could use a phone, but they also found us in Carmacks to let us know what was happening. They eased a mother’s and father’s worries.

And a big thank you to friends Larry and Kristin, who dropped everything to come to the aid of our stranded daughter. What awesome friends! We know the Yukon spirit is alive and well.

Thank you so much to everyone!

Val and Bob Holmes


Letters to the editor

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read