Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

LISTENING AND LEARNING – The political leaders are seen at Tuesday afternoon’s Millennial Town Hall at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. Left to right are Mayor Dan Curtis; Ta’an Kwäch’än Chief Kristina Kane; Premier Sandy Silver; Doris Bill, the chief of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation; and Grand Chief Peter Johnston of the Council of Yukon First Nations.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

A SATISFYING OUTCOME – Paige Hopkins, one of the town hall’s co-organizers, said she was ecstatic about how the event turned out.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

SOLUTIONS NEEDED – Charts depicting community challenges were displayed at Tuesday’s forum. Other charts dealt with poverty, homelessness, and drug use and misuse.

Youth, politicians get frank on urgent issues

For over two hours Tuesday, Yukon youth and some of the territory’s most prominent political and First Nations leaders got real with each other.

By Taylor Blewett on February 28, 2018

For over two hours Tuesday, Yukon youth and some of the territory’s most prominent political and First Nations leaders got real with each other.

It started with Mayor Dan Curtis, talking about his own experience as an elementary school student.

“I didn’t think that people understood where I was coming from, or my fears or my challenges or my strengths. And I didn’t feel valued, I didn’t feel listened to, I felt kind of pushed aside.”

Curtis was responding to a question posed by one of many young people who attended the first-ever Millennial Town Hall at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

The mayor was joined by Premier Sandy Silver; Peter Johnston, the Council of Yukon First Nations’ grand chief; Ta’an Kwäch’än Council Chief Kristina Kane; and Doris Bill, the chief of the Kwanlin Dün First Nation.

They faced a crowd of assembled teens and young adults with questions about the Yukon they live in.

“I have four children, a dog, two cats and I’m living on my parents’ property in a one-bedroom trailer,” one young woman stood and shared.

“What are your specific plans to increase the availability of affordable housing in our communities, and what will you do to reduce the barriers to access housing?” she asked.

In the two minutes or so they were each allotted, the leaders brought up various initiatives.

Those included the Safe at Home action plan to end and prevent homelessness in Whitehorse, Kwanlin Dün work with its land regime and Ta’an Kwäch’än’s recently completed housing complex.

“We know this is a huge, huge issue, and we are doing a lot of work, there’s a lot of things going on behind the scenes,“ Bill said.

But policy wasn’t the sole focus of the leaders’ answers. Many questions promoted more personal disclosures.

They were asked what they can do to create healthy communities to help break generational cycles of drug and alcohol abuse.

“Growing up with an alcoholic family myself, you struggle, you’re challenged with it every day,” Johnston said. “It’s so sad to see kids still suffering and being challenged by that.”

The grand chief spoke through tears.

“We don’t have the answers, but we definitely need to come up with the solutions to change the world and the realities that we face.”

The premier referenced his own experience working with youth as a teacher in Dawson City, and his belief that classrooms should also be places to learn life skills like sewing or writing a résumé.

“Making sure that our youth, by the time they’re 16, by the time they’re 18, by the time they can go, that they have the skills, that they’re not going to get to a big city and get into the pitfalls of living in a big city without knowing how to survive.”

He too, was crying.

“This is one of the reasons I left my amazing job, is to do better, with this.”

Bill brought up her own experience living in an alcoholic home as a foster child.

“One of the things I want to see in my community is a safe place for young people to go.”

This could be a community centre, or a 24-hour drop-in centre, she said.

“One where you can come by at night, sit, have a cup of coffee, and go to sleep if you want to.”

The questions and answers continued, moving from land-based learning to sex trafficking in the territory to education funding.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I think there was definitely some meaningful dialogue here today,” Kane said in her closing comments.

“Some challenging questions, but questions that had to be asked and questions that need to be addressed and questions that need solutions.”

“I’m looking forward to this becoming a tradition and becoming something that is for the youth and by the youth.”

Teagyn Vallevand, a well-known youth leader in Whitehorse, presented the politicians with gifts at the end of the town hall.

So often, she said, “we are told what we need … instead of being asked what we need.

“I really feel like today, with the questions that we asked you guys, and how you responded and how it was so meaningful and emotional … we felt like we were heard.”

The town hall was hosted by the Kwanlin Dün Youth Advisory Committee to Council, the Ta’an Kwäch’än Council and Shakat Journal.

Paige Hopkins is Shakat’s editor-in-chief, and one of the event’s co-organizers. She said she wasn’t sure what to expect from the town hall, and was ecstatic with the outcome.

“Honestly, it felt like we broke through that politician’s carefully-made façade, and we got the real people there,” Hopkins said.

“And that blew me away; I felt that. And I feel like a lot of the other people sitting around me felt it too.

“We got some real answers.”

Comments (9)

Up 0 Down 0

Max Mack on Mar 6, 2018 at 6:28 pm

Politics both nationally and territorially have become theatres of drama and the absurd. The "youth" attending this cry-fest seem to have come from the same echo chamber that the politicians live in.

Up 2 Down 0

The other side on Mar 6, 2018 at 9:27 am

What about the people who choose not to have kids because they know they can't afford them and they know that welfare doesn't cover the cost of them and they can't even afford housing?

The people who earn (by going out, applying on jobs and showing up EVERYDAY for years) a job and aren't asking for handouts from the government and trying to find something affordable. That's the real issue with the housing costs.

Up 4 Down 0

Yukoner on Mar 5, 2018 at 8:47 am

What Ii get from this story is that everyone was either whining or crying....

While we are used to some Yukoner's whining and expecting everyone to house their 4 kids and 3 pets for $500/month, I am mildly surprised about the three leaders crying tears. But if I think about it again, maybe not so much surprising. Just following the big guy in Ottawa I guess.

Up 4 Down 0

Duke on Mar 4, 2018 at 9:01 pm

If Bill felt as though he was pushed aside in grade school he should brace up for the results from the next civic election. Spend that.

Up 6 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Mar 4, 2018 at 8:57 am

PSG, You missed an important aspect. Babies mean more money each month.
It's interesting how people have focused on the comments of the young lady with four kids living in a trailer on her parents property. I wonder if during this honest and insightful discussion with the politicians if anybody raised the issue of having more babies so that the welfare cheque gets bigger? The system has been abused for a very long time in this way. I don't see much progress being made until the real issues like this one can be discussed and all can learn from them.

Up 8 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Mar 1, 2018 at 2:16 pm

Also, more and better family planning and access to birth control please. And the training to use it. **** happens and a baby can come along unexpected. That's life, but when a person doesn't have the means to keep a roof over their head and an income coming in then has more kids, not a wise choice. That's on the person having kids, the rest of society not so much.

Up 7 Down 0

Josey Wales on Mar 1, 2018 at 12:26 pm

King Dan says...“I didn’t think that people understood where I was coming from, or my fears or my challenges or my strengths. And I didn’t feel valued, I didn’t feel listened to, I felt kind of pushed aside.”

So in summary in his young days he felt like the civic taxpayers do each day? Seems he learned very little since then, as it is his leadership and administration standard operating procedure to do precisely what bothered him years ago each and every civic entitled day.

Up 7 Down 0

ProScience Greenie on Mar 1, 2018 at 12:15 pm

If you're over 20 then you are no longer a 'youth', you're an adult. The world is your oyster and even though the road my be a bit tough, get at it and make the most of it.

Pretending to be a 'youth' and demanding special services when your are actually an adult is taking away resources from those under 18 that could really use some assistance due to life circumstances like crappy parents and such.

Up 8 Down 0

Nile Nukon on Feb 28, 2018 at 2:59 pm

“I have four children, a dog, two cats and I’m living on my parents’ property in a one-bedroom trailer,” one young woman stood and shared.
I hope the kids were paying attention to some life lessons presented.

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