In remembrance of Yukoners in the First World War - May 10, 2016

Mr. Silver: Thank you very much. I rise today on behalf of the Liberal Caucus to pay tribute to the Yukon and it’s role during the First World War. This week, Heritage Yukon is hosting a conference called, “The North and First World War Conference”, which includes a two-day study tour in Dawson City to explore the roots of the Yukon’s involvement in the Great War.

The Yukon people have made numerous sacrifices during and after the First World War for king and country, including the enlistment of almost 600 Yukon men, representing a significant portion of the Yukon’s population. Dawson City, as the then-capital of the Yukon, was the centre of military and support efforts. The call to serve reached far and wide, enticing men of all stature — miners, bankers, Mounties, First Nations and local businessmen. They banded together regardless of social position as a united front for Canada.

George Black, the Yukon Commissioner at the time, was among those men. He stepped down from office and enlisted his name. He was joined by his stepson Lyman, and his wife Martha Black, who travelled to England, where she volunteered for the Red Cross, advocating for the Yukon and distributing the Yukon comfort fund. Lyman Black made Lieutenant by the age of 19 and was awarded the military cross.

A local businessman, Joe Boyle, sponsored a machine gun battery of over 50 men to travel and to fight alongside them. This group is said to be the most decorated Canadian army unit of World War I, holding 34 decorations among them. The Yukon’s effort did not go unnoticed. Many men and support groups from the Yukon had a significant impact on the direction and eventual victory of World War I. The Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire, the Women’s Patriotic Service League, the Anglican Church Women of Canada and Daughters of Nippon — to name a few — fought the war from home soil; collecting funds, sewing socks and warm clothing and putting together care packages for the Yukon soldiers.

When the Great War ended, only a little more than 100 men returned to the Yukon. The territorial budget was significantly reduced and many jobs were lost. In June 1920, the cenotaph was resurrected on the steps of the Whitehorse Public Library. It now sits in front of Whitehorse city hall. I urge you all to pay your respects to those who fought for our freedoms, including supporting efforts here on the home soils. I would also like to thank historians and museum staff for keeping their memories alive.