Dick North Tribute - Nov. 14, 2013

I rise today on behalf of the Liberal Caucus to pay tribute to Richard North

The Yukon loses a lot of writers. 

It’s the kind of place that inspires people, pulls them in from all around the world.  We draw more than our fair share of artists, musicians and writers, but we rarely get to keep them for long.  This is an inspiring land, but it isn’t an easy place to live.

Pierre Berton lived here with his mother until he was twelve years old; the house where he lived in Dawson has become a residence for other visiting writers.  Robert Service was here for eight years.  His cabin is a popular tourist attraction in Dawson.  It’s situated just down the road from the museum dedicated to Jack London, who was only here for one winter.

These writers made their reputations writing about the Yukon, but they spent most of their lives elsewhere.

The Yukon loses a lot of writers, and it recently lost another.  Unlike London and Berton and Service, Dick North didn’t leave us for the comforts of the south.  He passed away in September, in his home in Whitehorse.

In losing him we lost a very special kind of artist – a man who was dedicated to writing about the Yukon with the voice of someone who truly knew it.  Dick North moved to the Yukon as a young journalist.  He spent the bulk of his life in this territory, hiking and snowshoeing through the wilderness here.  This was his home, and it showed in every one of his books, whether he was writing about the territory’s history in The Mad Trapper of Rat River and the Lost Patrol, or his own history in Sailor on Snowshoes.

He was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada on December, 2007, an honour he received with all the humility and bemused pleasure you could expect from a true bushman.  It was, he said at the time, “pretty neat”.

Dick’s contributions aren’t limited to his own writing.  The Jack London museum that I mentioned a moment ago is his brain-child.  We owe its existence to his tenacity in sorting through rumours about the location of Jack London’s cabin, and organizing the expedition to recover it.  Thanks to Dick, that cabin was found and moved to town.  It sits now just outside the museum on eighth street. 

The member from Riverdale South wanted me to add that Dick would often visit the book store and would ask to see all of his books, so that he could sign them. What a great selling point for her store, that you would be hard pressed to find an unsigned Dick North book in the building.

The Yukon loses a lot of writers, but Dick North was special.  He was one of the greats.  That he stayed with us so long was a blessing not only to the communities where he lived and the people who lived in them, but to folks around the world who still read his words.  We were lucky to have him; we mourn his passing.