A hockey championship, earthquakes, governance, murders, and court decision added to Yukon's rich history over the past year.
The Supreme Court of Canada decision on the Peel Watershed is the RUSH news story of 2017.
The ruling released December 1st ordered land use planning for the 68,000 square kilometre region go back to the point where the Yukon government can approve, reject, or modify a Final Recommended Plan, settling a five-year long dispute with affected First Nations and environmental groups.
The territory's eight murders come in at number two, as the figure was the highest since 1961.
Governing the territory is number three with the passing of Bill C-17, resource gateway project announcement, four Yukon Forums, and the groundbreaking of a new operations building in Whitehorse as some of the highlights.
The May 1st earthquakes, and the Whitehorse Huskies winning the Coy Cup round out the top five.
Top Five RUSH News Stories Of 2017.
5. Whitehorse Huskies Capture Coy Cup.
For the first time ever, a Yukon team captured a hockey trophy from British Columbia that has been around since 1923. The Whitehorse Huskies hosted the Coy Cup tournament, and beat the Kelowna Sparta 7-4 in the final in front of a standing room and boisterous crowd at Takhini Arena on April 1st. The key play came late as Kevin Petovello intercepted a puck in the Kelowna zone while killing a penalty, and rushed down the ice, feeding a spinorama backhand pass to Derek Klassen who buried it to put the Huskies up by two. Whitehorse got an empty netter and the party down Two Mile Hill was on. Forward Ted Stephens was named tournament MVP.
Unfortunately, many Huskies players had moved on to other endeavours come September, and the team is not around to defend the title.
4. Yukon gets all shook up.
Yukoners were jolted awake at 5:31 am on May 1st by a 6.2 magnitude earthquake which struck northwest of Skagway along the Haines Road. It was followed by a 6.3 magnitude at 7:22 am. The Yukon Geological Survey said the quakes were located near Kelsall Lake in the Haines Pass area, 15 km south of the Yukon/BC border and 130 km southwest of Whitehorse, near where the Denali and Duke River faults meet. Many Yukoners called into the RUSH, and jumped on social media to document their experience. The quake caused the Yukon government, municipalities, Yukon Energy and ATCO Electric Yukon to take stock of major infrastructure, while business owners and residents spent the day assessing the immediate damage. The Lynn Building on Steele Street in downtown Whitehorse (below) suffered major cracking on both exterior and interior walls, and was closed for a month for repairs and assessment.
A hiker, 37-year-old Natalia Martinez of Argentina was in the middle of a solo climb over Mount Logan in Kluane National Park at the time of the quake, and was trapped by avalanches near her camp. She was rescued in a daring helicopter operation four days later. Another 5.1 magnitude hit in the same area on September 16th at 4:38 pm. The tremblors have caused many Yukoners to assess how ready they are to deal with emergencies such as earthquakes.
3. The business of governing the territory.
There was plenty to talk about from the four levels of government. As Canada 150 was winding down, the federal government passed Bill C-17 which takes out four contentious amendments to Yukon’s Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act. MP Larry Bagnell has committed to speak with miners who want more certainty regarding timelines and reassessments. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visited Whitehorse on the Labour Day long weekend (below) to announce $247 million for what's billed as the Yukon Resource Gateway Project. It promises to upgrade hundreds of kilometres of mining roads over the coming years.
The territorial government spent months gathering input on the federal carbon tax, and marijuana legislation which will take effect in 2018. Premier Sandy Silver met with Council of Yukon First Nations Chiefs in four Yukon Forums. Kaska First Nations were busy, as the Liard First Nation elected George Morgan as Chief in early June, after months of trying to hold a proper vote. In October, the Ross River Dena Council was denied by the Yukon Supreme Court in a ruling on negotiating land claims with Canada. The RRDC is also dealing with a community housing crisis, and announced in December they will finish constructing three duplexes abandoned by a Vancouver contractor in September.
Federal infrastructure dollars flowed into the territory keeping municipalities busy. The City of Whitehorse broke ground (above) on a $54.9 million dollar Operations Building on the top of Two Mile Hill in early August. It’s the biggest building project in the city’s history.
2. Yukon murder rate soars.
Eight. The number for 2017 is staggering, considering the average for the past decade is about two. In many of the past few years there have been no murders at all. This is the most in a single year since 1961.
On April 6th, 45-year-old Greg Dawson was found dead in a Riverdale home. A few weeks later on April 19th, 51-year-old Wendy Carlick, and 53-year-old Sarah MacIntosh (above) were discovered dead in a McIntyre home. On June 28th, the body of 25-year-old Adam Cormack was found along the Alaska Highway in the Whitehorse area. 20-year-old Edward James Penner faces charges in connection with the death. 57-year-old Wilfred Charlie went missing in Carmacks on June 19th. His body was pulled from the Yukon River near Fort Selkirk on July 5th. Two Carmacks men face charges in connection with his death.
51-year-old Clayton Benoit was found injured on August 30th, and transported to the Whitehorse General Hospital where he later died. 25-year-old Mohamed Nagiel Saddek Nagem of Surrey, B.C. was shot on September 20th in Porter Creek, and died from his injuries the next day. 37-year-old Derek Edwards was found dead in Pelly Crossing on December 13th, and an autopsy confirmed foul play was involved.
The murders all come in a year when Whitehorse hosted the first public hearing of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in late May. Carlick’s son Alex interrupted proceedings, tearfully telling the commissioners how much his mother meant to him, and he feels the pain of all victims families.
A murder from 2015 also grabbed headlines this year. The first degree murder trial of 39-year-old Darryl Sheepway was held in Yukon Supreme Court. He was accused of killing 25-year-old Christopher Brisson on August 28th of that year in a drug deal gone wrong. The trial started in early November, and stretched into mid-December. A verdict is expected at the end of January.
1. Peel Watershed Decision.
This is probably the story of the decade for Yukon. After spinning in the courts for years, land use planning for the Peel Watershed gained some much needed direction courtesy of the highest court in the land—the Supreme Court of Canada. In March, lawyers representing First Nations and conservation groups travelled to Ottawa, and along with government lawyers presented their case to the justices.
On the morning of December 1st, the SCOC ruled the land use planning process go back to the point where the government can approve, reject, or modify a Final Recommended Plan for the 68,000 square kilometre region. The ruling essentially said the government could not get a do over in the planning process. It was a win for First Nations and conservation groups. It once again affirmed the crown must adhere to First Nations Final Agreements. The ruling gained national and international attention, garnering an ‘urgent’ story designation from The Canadian Press when the decision was first released, to banner headlines in the local papers with the Yukon News exclaiming ‘Peel Protected’, all the way to coverage in the New York Times.
The Yukon Party was in power during the land use planning process, and admitted ‘mistakes were made’. Liberal premier Sandy Silver indicated right away, he wants to sit down with affected First Nations and get the process back on track. In a year-end interview with the RUSH, Silver said he wanted to get the land use planning process started early in 2018.
These were just five of the many newsworthy items which made up the year that was.
CKRW The RUSH is pleased to have provided the Yukon stories that matter to you in 2017, and we will strive to continue the same in 2018.
Happy New Year!
Compiled and written by senior reporter Tim Kucharuk. Top 5 graphic by reporter Oshea Jephson.
All photos/videos CKRW file. Maps: (Quake) Natural Resources Canada. (Peel) Yukon government.