Story & Photo by Dan Davidson
The City of Dawson has joined the chorus of voices proclaiming that federal cuts to Parks Canada’s operations in the Yukon were a mistake that needs to be corrected.
In a resolution passed unanimously on November 13, council stated as follows: “Whereas Parks Canada is a key partner in Dawson’s heritage community,
‘Whereas the town is displeased with the impact recent actions have had on Parks and the local heritage community, the visitor experience of Dawson City, our economy, and those impacted by job loss,
“Therefore be it resolved that the City of Dawson supports the Yukon Government’s and our MLA’s efforts to urge the Government of Canada to recognize the importance of Parks Canada’s Yukon sites in attracting visitors, increasing the value of Yukon tourism products and supporting local travel and recreation; and to restore funding for the curatorial, conservation and collections management of local Parks-controlled artifacts and historic buildings.”
The motion passed swiftly with the only debate being over some verb tenses that got tangled in the long clauses.
The federal budget released last spring cut funding and staff to Parks Canada sites throughout the territory and across the nation, High profile sites such as the SS Klondike, SS Keno and Dredge No. 4 were closed to guided tours and in some cases to access at all, as of the end of last summer’s season. Parks Services to backcountry travellers in the Haines Junction region were reduced or eliminated.
The budget for Klondike National Historic Sites in Dawson was slashed so deeply that the superintendent here has wondered at public meetings how to cover the fuel bill for heating buildings this winter, and has appeared before town council to ask to be forgiven the fee that it costs KNHS to be hooked up to the town’s fire alert monitoring system. Ironically, this is a system that exists due to earlier demands by Parks that it needed to be put in place.
The curatorial and conservation staff for the entire territory, which was based in Dawson City, was let go, and the massive collection in the Klondike (250,000 items) turned over to visiting curatorial staff based in Ottawa.
Klondike MLA Sandy Silver has been vocal in objecting to this turn of events since the first announcements. The Yukon government passed a motion late in October demanding that the federal government rethink its Parks strategy and restore funding to its Yukon unit.