According to the Yukon Commissioner’s office, the New Year’s Levee is an old tradition that dates back to King Louis XIV of France and was first introduced in Canada when fur traders would pay respect to their government representatives on New Year’s Day.
The annual event has evolved from these beginnings and the levee this January 1st will have a new highlight as well. It will be Commissioner Doug Phillips’ seventh Commissioner’s Levee, and also his last in the role, so it will be a chance to recognize his retirement.
According to Phillips, the levee has traditionally been well attended with 250-300 Yukoners joining him at the event. The event has become a way to say goodbye to the old year and welcome the New Year – and an opportunity to celebrate Yukoners and the territory.
Phillips appreciates his time as Commissioner and the opportunity it has provided to connect with Yukoners and get an even better understanding of the amazing people who live here, particularly through the Commissioner’s Awards.
“I start to read their (Commissioner’s Award) nomination, and I’m forever astounded by how this person who I thought did one thing has done things for so many organizations throughout their life,” said Phillips. “You start to realize that one of the reasons this is such a wonderful place to live is because of people like this.”
Phillips is also happy to have changed how the Commissioner’s Awards are presented and by personalizing it for the individual. Recipients are asked how they’d like to proceed and have chosen a variety of locations and methods including at the levee, the Office of the Commissioner at Taylor House on Main Street and Fifth Avenue, or simply at home with family and friends.
Moving the Commissioner’s offices to their new home at Taylor House is also one of the accomplishments during Phillips tenure and he’s very proud to have found the office a permanent home. “Prior to moving, one of the questions I’d get is ‘Where is the Commissioner’s office?’” Phillips said. “The last permanent location for the Commissioner’s office was in Dawson City when the government was located there.”
As well, Phillips established a Commissioner’s Youth Showcase to support talented youth in the arts field and more than 150 Yukoners have gone through the program. Many of those youth have gone on to other projects in their fields and Phllips hopes that the showcase has played a part in their success.
This year’s levee will feature performances by youth showcase alumni Selina Heylingers, Madi Dixon, Sarah Ott and the Klondike Highland Dancers.
Annually, the Commissioner’s Levee also features a presentation of the Governor General’s Academic Achievement awards.
Phillips does have one piece of business he feels he leaves undone. Together with the other territories commissioners, he has been working to rename the position. Commissioners have become a commonly used term across the country and this has lead to confusion when working with his peers, the lieutenant-governors in the provinces.
“It is a bit confusing. So I’ve been working with the federal government and others on the possibility of a name change,” Phillips said. “We used to have a government leader and now he’s called the territorial premier. And it does make a difference in people interpreting what your role is and your job is. We do the exact same job as (the lieutenant-governors) do in the south, and yet we are called commissioners.
“What’s really interesting about the Yukon is that the Yukon Commissioner’s name has changed seven times since 1898.
“And in fact, prior to the three territories being broken up over the years there was a lieutenant-governor of the northern territories.
“My argument is that if you do the job, the name of the position should be aligned consistently.”
The Commissioner’s New Year’s Levee is a free event taking place on January 1, 2018 from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Government of Yukon Main Administration Building. Yukoners are invited to join to celebrate the new year and the accomplishments of their fellow Yukoners, while enjoying some of the hearty appetizers that will be available.
For more information, you can contact the Office of the Commissioner at 867-667-5121.
Danny Macdonald is the Editor of What’s Up Yukon. He’s going a little crazy as this is his fourth article in this issue. Merry Christmas and a happy New Year!