Whitehorse Daily Star

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A HEROIC DEED – Scott McDougall rescues a man from the Yukon River in Whitehorse on the afternoon of July 22 of this year. He will receive a Commissioner’s Award for Bravery. Photo by ARTHUR MITCHELL

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Photo by Whitehorse Star

Scott McDougall

River rescuer to receive bravery award

Five Yukoners – including one who saved a man’s life – are in line for Commissioner’s Awards.

By Whitehorse Star on November 19, 2021

Five Yukoners – including one who saved a man’s life – are in line for Commissioner’s Awards.

On Wednesday, Commissioner Angélique Bernard announced the 2021 recipients of the Commissioner’s Award for Public Volunteer Service and the Commissioner’s Award for Bravery.

The latter award recognizes someone who has performed an outstanding act of courage and has responded with great effort and at considerable personal risk in hazardous circumstances to save or safeguard, or attempt to save or safeguard the life of one or more people.

Whitehorse resident Scott McDougall will receive the award for his successful river rescue of a canoeist in distress in the Yukon River one afternoon last July 22.

McDougall, the owner of Kanoe People, was in the waterfront store when two people burst in, shouting there was a man in the river needing to be rescued.

He ran for the canoes kept along the river by the store, hopped in, and soon saw a man struggling in the water.

He said he kept calling to him, reassuring him help was on the way.

He estimated he was still about 75 feet away when the man slipped under the surface.

McDougall managed to locate him and hauled him halfway into his canoe. The man roused slightly, and started to cling to the gunwales.

“I grabbed him very securely. I heard him gurgle a bit,” he told the Star at the time.

“I didn’t even try to get him all the way in, because I didn’t want to go into the water.”

He then began to manoeuvre the canoe toward shore. That proved more difficult than usual because of the extra weight and the torrential current at the moment.

McDougall was met by the RCMP rescue boat just a few feet from where he planned to land.

The man he had rescued was still clinging to the boat, but was now “unconscious but breathing,” McDougall said.

The RCMP began treating the man, who was subsequently taken to Whitehorse General Hospital.

McDougall said he wasn’t intimidated by the conditions. “The river’s always fast.”

Despite what people would say, McDougall said shortly after the rescue, “I’m not a hero. I’m just glad it turned out the way it did.”

He has had to pull a few other people out of the river over the years.

“This isn’t something that police would recommend or ask the average bystander do because of the possible risk, but in this situation, police appreciate that he was able to use his extensive knowledge and expertise to safely follow and grab hold of the man in the water,” the RCMP said at the time of the drama.

“(McDougall) played a huge role in the rescue efforts, along with an off-duty paramedic and other witnesses and bystanders.”

Insp. Lindsay Ellis added, “The courage displayed by Mr. Scott McDougall of Kanoe People was outstanding, and the response of the public and our members and public safety partners was nothing short of remarkable.”

The Commissioner’s Award for Public Volunteer Service recognizes the exceptional volunteer achievements of Canadians from across the country in a wide range of fields and pays tribute to their dedication and commitment.

It has gone to four people. Among them is Dieter Gade for all his work with the Junction Arts and Music Society over the last 14 years and for all he does in Haines Junction over the last 25 years.

Also receiving the honour is Terence Grabowski for his work over the years with the Whitehorse Legion Branch 254 and for his work with veterans in the Yukon and across Canada.

Grabowski has also presented many quilts to serving veterans, including being instrumental in three U.S. veterans receiving quilts through Quilts of Valour.

Bev Regier will be presented with an award for all her work over the last 18 years with the Yukon Quest.

Regier has done everything from working the trails for the annual sled dog race to being president of the board of directors to fundraising.

The late Bill Thomas is being recognized for his work over the last 14 years advancing the issues of poverty, homelessness, care for and rights of people with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, and seniors’ rights.

Ellen Thomas will accept the award on behalf of her father, who died Oct. 26.

The award recipients were chosen from nominations submitted to the Commissioner’s Award Advisory Committee. They receive a pin and a certificate.

They will be presented with their awards in the coming weeks, as the Commissioner’s New Year’s Levee set for Jan. 1, 2022 has been cancelled due to the escalating cases of COVID-19.

“I am honoured and thrilled to announce this year’s recipients,” Bernard said.

“They demonstrate the wide variety of dedicated volunteers in the Yukon, all of whom are invaluable to so many events and programs.

“Thank you to everyone who put forward names for nomination.”

The next intake for nominations will take place next spring.

Comments (2)

Up 15 Down 1

yukon56 on Nov 19, 2021 at 4:46 pm

There is good in all, I attempt a random act of kindness when an opportunity presents itself - Karma will reward you when you need it.

Up 32 Down 5

Nathan Living on Nov 19, 2021 at 3:05 pm

The recognition is well deserved for all the people nominated.

Thank you Scott for acting so quickly.

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