Whitehorse Daily Star

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CURRYING DISCUSSION – Former premier Tony Penikett says his book attempts to raise questions related to legislation that looks at land, education, health and the environment, among other entities.

Former Yukon premier to roll into Whitehorse next week

After spending years in the political limelight during the 1980s and early ’90s, one-time Yukon premier Tony Penikett will bring his book talk to the city next week.

By Palak Mangat on December 7, 2018

After spending years in the political limelight during the 1980s and early ’90s, one-time Yukon premier Tony Penikett will bring his book talk to the city next week.

Drawing on his experience in the territory and a number of Arctic and northern regions, he hopes to chronicle and further inspire the shift he’s seen around political decision-making.

Speaking to the Star Thursday afternoon, he said he’s been able to see it grow over the years to become more inclusive of those directly involved by the calling of those shots.

Part of his work draws on his two-term (1985-92) reign as premier under the Yukon NDP banner during a time when First Nations, for example, were negotiating their land claim agreements via the Umbrella Final Agreement.

“I had been thinking about what might seem like a trivial thing (to some)” for quite some time, Penikett said.

“How many times I heard Canadian politicians talk about our country’s national identity and its northern character and Arctic identity and so forth.”

It was upon reflection that he felt there were “big gaps in the way people from the south view the Canadian arctic,” complete with misnomers and misconceptions.

It’s not a unique national problem, either: the same can be said for areas like Alaska and Washington, he added, or regions of a single country that see varying lifestyles because of a lack of urban and rural parity.

“My purpose in writing this book is to provoke discussion about some issues and encourage people, particularly northerners, to be more assertive about their points of view.”

Now working as a mediator and negotiator with some work in B.C., Penikett said he’s seen the attitude of governments slowly begin to shift from being largely in favour of those he called “settlers.”

These included entrepreneur-like individuals who came to the North to open businesses, develop mines and things of that sort.

“People who didn’t get much attention were Indigenous people,” he said: those who were disadvantaged or impoverished by other standards.

But some of that began to change during the ’70s and ’80s with the negotiations, with Penikett crediting the groups for “becoming very assertive.

“But also just as important, non-Indigenous people in the North and Indigenous people started to sit down and talk to each other – and mere importantly listened to each other.”

With gradual progress, Penikett explained the shift of seeing the Arctic as merely a “battleground” of sorts began to take shape.

“When I was young, the rule was that the South talked and the North listened,” he said of the relationship between Ottawa and its provincial/territorial counterparts.

One of the shifts over the last three decades or so has shown him that the North can – and is – talking back.

Meanwhile, one of the chapters in the book references booms and busts – something Penikett added can be seen through the lens of resources in the territory.

“The booms benefited not the people who lived there, but those people had to deal with the busts.”

Reviews of the work also mention his references to climate change, which Penikett said is vitally important to see it as an “existential threat.”

That’s especially here in the Yukon and other northern areas of the country, where the impacts may be felt at a greater speed or intensity.

While the NDP loyalist acknowledged he drew on his years of work in the public service, he shied away from saying it was in fact a political work.

“It’s a policy book, not a political book,” he said.

He described it as his attempt at raising questions related to legislation that looks at land, education, health and the environment, among other things, and its overlapping relationships.

“It suggests that there are northern ways of looking at these things which are different from the perspectives of Ottawa or Washington.”

Next Tuesday, Penikett will be joined by Carol Geddes, a Teslin Tlingit Council member and award-winning filmmaker, at the Whitehorse Public Library.

The event will begin at 2 p.m., and will feature a presentation by Penikett on “Hunting the Northern Character,” topped off by a question and answer session.

Comments (5)

Up 18 Down 1

FleapitsUnincorporated on Dec 11, 2018 at 3:12 pm

Sandy Jamesen - probably a blessing in disguise. The building is about to be closed down on health and safety grounds. The fire dept are issuing an order to shut shop as it is a fire trap. (very risky, in addition to the chances of contracting something contagious from the sticky carpets and uphostelry).

Up 26 Down 2

joe and Jane on Dec 11, 2018 at 2:24 pm

yup my kind of yukon hero; live here for awhile, make a fortune on politics then move away.

Up 29 Down 2

Sandy Jamesen on Dec 10, 2018 at 8:45 pm

I hope he talks about me losing my job at the Yukon Cinema because I couldn't cash his check and he phoned the owners in Edmonton and made a big deal of it. I was only doing my job. The policy was No Checks. He was the Yukon Government Leader at the time.

Up 20 Down 4

jack on Dec 9, 2018 at 10:58 pm

Buy my book ..................

Up 18 Down 28

workersworld on Dec 8, 2018 at 5:03 pm

Tony Pennikett's NDP created the best Workers Compensation Legislation the territory has ever seen. It was subsequently trashed and dismantled and turned into the worst legislation in the history of Yukon by WCB Directors, Union Leaders, Yukon Party and the Whitehorse Chamber of Commerce, and it all added up to nothing short of criminal intent. Welcome back to the North Tony Penikett, the workers friend, and a sane and astute politician. No one so far has been able to fill your shoes.

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