The editor set us the challenge of making a pitch for our community that says it is more special than any other in the territory, with a wink and a nod in the direction of Whitehorse.
The assignment is hardly fair to the capital city. Those who don’t live in the capital city of any given province tend to harbour negative feelings towards it.
Everyone complains about Ottawa. Every other community in Ontario complains about Toronto. Manitobans complain about Winnipeg, and so it goes as you move across the nation.
In Alberta, Calgary believes it really ought to be the capital city and so harbours resentment towards Edmonton.
In British Columbia, Vancouverites know that it’s crazy for the capital city to be out there on the island, and think Victoria is deluded.
Whitehorse has the particular impediment of having the bulk of the Yukon’s population and, if you only count government employees, the largest share of the economy.
It also has a bit of an inferiority complex, hence its continued frenzied attempts to make its downtown core look like something out of the gold rush period rather than be a reflection of the 1950s when it really came of age and managed to steal the capital designation from Dawson.
A former mayor here used to reflect sarcastically that Dawson got lucky when that happened. In his words, “We got to keep all the best buildings and lost all the politicians and bureaucrats.”
I’ve lived in three Yukon communities in my 40 years here, and all three have their good and bad points. We spent a few summers in the capital while taking courses, house sitting in various parts of the city, and felt that it was a cluster of communities that didn’t seem to fit together, each having its own identity.
I grew up in a small company town, smaller than Dawson, but with the distinct difference that there were other towns about the same size at the other end of every road that passed through it. The average distance between towns was about that between Riverdale and Porter Creek, or one of the country residential hamlets that are a half hour’s commute from the capital’s downtown core.
Dawson feels like more of a community to me. Even if some parts of it are across the Yukon River, or 20 minutes down the Klondike Highway, there is a certain connectedness that everyone seems to share. Part of it is, undoubtedly, the collective sense that Whitehorse doesn’t appreciate us.
My reading leaves me with the impression that my town was supposed to dry up and collapse like other boom towns once the Yukon Consolidated Gold Corp. ceased operations. Instead it was rescued for a decade by the creation of the mine at Clinton Creek, by the change from corporate gold mining to family based cat mining, and by the arrival of Parks Canada.
Paradoxically, the same federal government that had humbled the Klondike by moving the capital to Whitehorse, now revived it through the slow process of creating a series of National Historic Sites, spending money on the restoration of iconic structures, and, most recently, helping finance the drive towards UNESCO World Heritage Status.
That last development, which should come to fruition in the summer of 2018, is enough, by itself, to prove my contention that Dawson City is a pretty special place when contrasted with other Yukon communities.