Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for April 18, 2012

City loses dedicated ex-officer, lawmaker

A former long-serving member of Whitehorse city council died last week at the age of 83.

By Chuck Tobin on April 18, 2012 at 3:38 pm


Photo submitted

LEAVING HIS MARK – Art Deer, a former Whitehorse city councillor and RCMP officer, passed away last week. Deer also loved photography. He is seen above in the early 1950s during a patrol of the Alaska Highway west of Haines Junction. Below to the left, Deer is photographed aboard the S.S. Whitehorse in 1959. To the right, he holds onto a beaver in the early ’50s while posing with a trapper in the Watson Lake area. Photos courtesy DEER FAMILY

A former long-serving member of Whitehorse city council died last week at the age of 83.

Art Deer was first elected in 1976 and served a total of 12 years in the 1970s and ’80s, his last term running from 1988 to 1991.

He is also being remembered for his years with the RCMP in the North, and his work documenting life here through the lens of his camera.

After arriving in Whitehorse in 1949, Deer was among the officers who patrolled the rugged Alaska Highway, from Beaver Creek to Watson Lake.

It was early in his life, growing up in Edmonton, that he became enamoured with the North, having worked with a man who regularly came north and published the accounts of his travels, his son Peter Deer said in an interview this morning.

“So when he did join the RCMP, he expresssed an interest in coming north right away.”

After a stint in the Eastern Arctic following his posting in the Yukon, Deer returned south with Faye, his bride-to-be, then spent some time serving the force in Yorkton, Sask. and Ottawa.

His son said it didn’t take Art long to figure out the national capital wasn’t for him.

He returned to Baker Lake in 1960 for three years, and served in Whitehorse from 1964 to 1966 before moving to Inuvik from 1966 to 1969.

When Art and Faye returned to Whitehorse in 1969, Art was wearing the stripes of a staff sergeant, and was the senior non-commissioned officer until his retirement in 1973.

But it wasn’t long before civic duty beckoned – again.

Back in those days, said Peter, a lot of RCMP officers were farm kids, and they understood hard work.

“Dad had a very, very strong set of principles, about what was right and what was wrong,” Peter said.

“He had a sense of civic duty, about giving back to the community, and Whitehorse in particular.”

Peter said his dad wanted the best for Whitehorse, the city where his four kids would grow up.

“Art was a solid man, a very solid man,” said Ione Christensen, who was elected mayor of Whitehorse during her first run for city council in 1976, the same year Deer was initially elected.

“We were all brand new,” Christensen, a former Yukon senator, recalled today.

“It was a very good council because nobody could say, ‘Well we did that before and it did not work, or we did this.’

“So everybody had to do their homework to know what was happening.”

Christensen’s family and the Deer family were already close, as Ione’s dad, the late G.I. Cameron, had also served on the force.

“Art was a wonderful photographer,” she said. “In fact, he took the pictures at my Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary.”

On city council, said Christensen, Deer was a straight shooter.

“You always knew where Art was coming,” she said. “You didn’t always agree with him, but you always knew where he was coming from.

“He did his homework, he read his material and he listened to people,” Christensen said. “I liked him, and found him to be a solid member of council.”

Deer, said the former mayor, was among those who helped make Whitehorse what it is today.

Coun. Dave Stockdale, currently the city’s longest-serving member of council, remembers that when he was first elected to city hall in 1983, Deer was there to provide advice about how things worked and what to watch out for.

“When I think back to Art, he was very, very conscientious about his work and very, very serious about what he did with the city,” said Stockdale.

“One of Art’s favourite sayings was ‘pave it or seed it’ whenever we discussed roads and things. ‘Pave it or seed it.’”

Deer mounted one unsuccessful bid for the mayoralty in the mid-1980s.

The Deer family has begun sorting the library of photos taken by Art documenting the North.

“He’s got 60 years’ worth of photographs,” Peter said. “I imagine at some point we’ll be contacting the (Yukon) Archives.”

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