Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for July 25, 2011

Order to leave called ‘incomprehensible’

The organizer of a memorial on the steps of the Elijah Smith Building was told to vacate the premises early this morning.

By Will Johnson on July 25, 2011 at 2:50 pm


Photo by Vince Fedoroff

TOLD TO DEPART – Jean-Francois Des Lauriers is seen this morning at a memorial he created to the victims of the Norwegian massacres. He was ordered to vacate the premises by the operators of the Elijah Smith Building, SNC-Lavalin. He refused to leave.

The organizer of a memorial on the steps of the Elijah Smith Building was told to vacate the premises early this morning.

Jean-Francois Des Lauriers, who is seeking the NDP nomination for Takhini-Kopper King in the upcoming election, set up a small table with flowers and a consolation book to honour the victims of a pair of Norwegian terrorist attacks that occurred on Friday, July 22. Both were perpetrated by a single man named Anders Behring Breivik.

“Today we mourn. Tomorrow we build a better world,” read a small sign on the binder, which held a number of signatures from Whitehorse residents.

Once Des Lauriers set up his station, he was informed by a representative from SNC-Lavalin – which manages and maintains the property – that he wasn’t permitted on the premises.

When he refused to remove the Norwegian flags he was flying, the worker threatened to call the police.

“I’m choked to the max here,” said Des Lauriers. “I told him, ‘You’re desecrating a memorial.’”

Des Lauriers said he was reminded of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing when he heard news of the terrorist attack in Norway.

“I was leaving for Edmonton on Friday when I heard about it,” said Des Lauriers. “All I thought was, ‘Oh no, not again.’

“I’m in grief right now,” he said.

Des Lauriers said the tragedy is indicative of increased right-wing extremism, and was shocked to learn the victims of the camp shooting were targeted for being the youth wing of the Norwegian Labour Party.

“These are my people. They were targeted specifically for political reasons,” he said.

The official death toll of the Norwegian massacre, as of this morning, was 76.

Norwegian police had earlier stated that 93 people were killed in a bombing of a government building in Oslo and a mass murder at a youth camp on a small island northwest of Oslo called Utoeya.

The mass murder is the worst in Norway’s peacetime history, and the greatest loss of life since the Second World War.

Breivik is reportedly an anti-Muslim extremist who has attempted to start a Norwegian satellite component of the English Defence League.

He appeared in court this morning and plead not guilty.

Breivik has stated he believed his actions were necessary to save the country from an influx of Muslim immigrants and to damage the Labour Party, which he believes has failed his country.

He is quoted as saying he wishes to be a “saviour of European Christendom.”

Des Lauriers said he can’t imagine the grief of the Norwegian people, and was shocked that a society as peaceful and progressive as Norway could be the setting for such a tragedy.

“If it can happen there, it could happen here too,” he said. “Nobody’s safe.”

Alex Furlong, the new regional director of the Canadian Labour Congress, was at the event this morning.

He said he has had similar problems in the past with SNC-Lavalin

“This is what happens when you privatize,” said Furlong. “We’ve run into similar issues with SNC-Lavalin in the past, not being allowed to fly a flag on the National Day of Mourning.”

“This is how the Harper government wants to run things. It’s ridiculous, in my opinion,” he said. “It’s a sad day for Canada.”

Julie Docherty, the regional executive vice president of the Public Service Alliance of Canada, North, said she was infuriated that SNC-Lavalin attempted to shut down their memorial.

“It’s incomprehensible,” she said.

Docherty said she checked the Canadian Heritage website this morning, and wrote down a quote from the front page of the site which read: “The manner in which flags may be displayed in Canada is not governed by any legislation.”

“They told us we were breaking the law,” she said. “There is no law.”

Des Lauriers contacted Yukon MP Ryan Leef, who attended the site this morning and attempted to get permission for the memorial to be held there. Des Lauriers was told Leef has no authority there.

“This is our building. This is who we elected,” said Des Lauriers. “What do you mean he has no authority here?”

“Who do we have to call? The prime minister?” asked Furlong.

Des Lauriers said he will have the memorial set up until 1:00 this afternoon, and plans to leave flowers there indefinitely.

“This is our building. I paid for that. My grandfather fought in two frickin’ wars so we could have this building,” he said.

Des Lauriers said he hopes the memorial will show that the residents of Whitehorse stand in solidarity with the Norwegian people.

He wants people to show their intolerance for political violence and hate speech, which, in his opinion, is a growing problem in Canada and around the world.

“This is a time for us to reflect and think about all the violence and all the madness and say, ‘Enough is enough,’” said Des Lauriers.

CommentsAdd a comment


Jul 25, 2011 at 3:08 pm

The gov has no brains let there be a memorial!!!

Krysta Meekins

Jul 25, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I understand there are probably some legitimate concerns about loitering and unruly behaviour at this public building, but I think that SNC-Lavalin is really crossing the line in their heavy-handed approach.  The lack of public washrooms, the inability to peacefully exhibit displays such as this (and numerous others in the past, including one by blood-ties and a local B-boy group)  It should be easy enough to escort away individuals who are intoxicated or disruptive while allowing positive and peaceful exhibits or protests without a blanket zero-tolerance policy like this.  The YTG building has a much more welcoming demeanour.  Thank you to the building administrators and security at YTG for your inclusive approach.

Brenda Gadsby

Jul 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm

Des Laurier is doing a wonderful thing,supporting people in tragedy and showing intolerance to violence and hatred.

Michael Tillmann

Jul 25, 2011 at 5:53 pm

I’m not sure if the building owners have the legal right to tell people who are engaging in ‘demonstrations’ (such as memorials) to leave or not.  It depends on a number of factors, including whether the building is classified as government property or private property.  However, in any case, I think it would be advisable to let people have their demonstrations as long as they’re not interfering with the operation of the building.  It seems poor judgment to me to chase away people who are just having a memorial.


Jul 25, 2011 at 6:07 pm

Its so sad to see how the NDP always use the suffering of people to gain attention to themselves and their political cause. Des Lauriers could have held the (so called) memorial in tent city behind the Legislature building. There, at least he would have had a sympathetic audience. But then, I guess his boss, Liz Hanson wore that location out the last couple of weeks and Des Lauriers feels that he needs a new stage.


Jul 25, 2011 at 6:13 pm

And for the usual who will cuss me out for my previous comment, I too am a military veteran. I did something useful for my country and to help prevent what happened in Norway. But like most of us veterans, we don’t grandstand for a personal cause every time a tragedy like this happens. That’s sick!


Jul 25, 2011 at 6:26 pm

Everyone feels badly for the Norwegians.  Mr. Des Lauriers using this tragedy for his own political gain is also tragic.

Francias Pillman

Jul 25, 2011 at 6:52 pm

I have no sympathy for Mr. Lauriers. He knew other events were shut down before. Him playing the victim card is unbelievable. The new owners don’t want that type of activity on their property. They have made that clear. Live with that fact. Go elsewhere, as there are plenty of places to have an event.


Jul 25, 2011 at 7:21 pm

Yeah, it was a sad day for the people of Norway and a lasting reminder of hate of political views and religion. It would have been nice to see a memorial in front of the Elijah smith building but next time call ahead and make it simple for your gathering and as well a heads up for the staff members at the building. There are many other places where it could have been held at like the rotary peace park or in front of the YTG building. Why make a big thing out of it where it could have easily been avoided and want to point fingers who was to blame for not letting a peaceful gathering take place.
Don’t put your gathering into a position where you feel your mistreated and we can go on for days on how our world is. Peace be upon us all.

Derek Court

Jul 25, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Its a shame that the Management of SNC Lavalin (NOT the employees that were probably given the unenviable task of evicting the memorial creator were merely following orders) seem incapable of “thinking outside the box” when they are faced with an ad hoc situation such as this.
It’s not as if Whitehorse has daily demonstrations on the door step of the Govt. building that require such a rigid mindset.
But, if my personal experience as a former building maintenance employee of SNC is any indication, the management at SNC in Whitehorse is just as myopic as the management in Vancouver. Mindlessly following orders whatever the issue. I’m just surprised they reacted so quickly. It usually took days to get through the call center in new Brunswick.)
I have no regrets leaving THAT particular company.
Hopefully the taxpayers of this country will eventually realize that privatizing everything for the sake of saving pennies isn’t really all that cost effective…...

June Jackson

Jul 25, 2011 at 8:07 pm

While i agree that we can have a memorial to support Norway, to mourn their loss with them, I think this guy is using it to climb the political ladder and he isn’t getting my vote..

A lot of folks died and suffered in Japan..where was his memorial for them?


Jul 25, 2011 at 11:00 pm

Don’t get me wrong I’m not saying this is right or wrong.

I think the main idea is that they have a super simplified rule that says basically nobody can utilize this space without prior permissions.

Rule is a rule is a rule.

It’s sad that the rules are being taken so seriously especially in regards to the situation but where do we ask them to draw the line.

Groucho d'North

Jul 26, 2011 at 11:04 am

Perhaps if Mr. Des Lauriers had stuck to exclusively honoring the innocent victims from this tragic event rather than promoting the Left vs Right politics of it, he may have had a better reception from the SNC-Lavalin contractor.

Perpetuating an ideological argument is not honoring the innocent non-partisan dead -  it’s soapboxing.

Kevin Murphy

Jul 26, 2011 at 11:43 am

I am as choked as everybody else is in regards to this incomprehensible tragedy in Norway and I applaud Jean-Francois’ efforts in setting up the memorial. I do however take issue with his comment that “These are my people”. Applying labels is dangerous whether inclusive or exclusive and certainly the killer is guilty of labelling especially in his manifesto and his actions. The unfortunate people murdered probably shared the same beliefs and ideology as Jean-Francois and that allows for his identifying with the victims.

Dave Thompson

Jul 27, 2011 at 8:10 am

I applaud Mr. Des Laurier. He is exercising his right to free speech for something he deeply believes in. Those who are accusing him of an ulterior motive simply don’t know him or appreciate his commitment to peace. Shame on multinational corporation SNC Lavalin, and the Harper government.

Kim Sorenssen

Jul 31, 2011 at 4:22 pm

I am a Norwegian visitor to Whitehorse and would like to thank Mr Des Laurier for his show of solidarity. It is deeply appreciated.

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