Question re: Klondike region, application as UNESCO World Heritage Site - October 29, 2014

Mr. Silver:   The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in has been spearheading a project in Dawson that would see the Klondike region be designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Klondike was placed on Canada’s tentative list for consideration as a World Heritage Site in 2004. More than 150 sites were reviewed by experts, and 11 sites were selected. Very few places in the world are shortlisted, so the region is already in a very advantageous position compared to hundreds of other places that are interested in this prestigious honour.

I will start with an extremely simple question: Does the Government of Yukon support the Klondike becoming a World Heritage Site?

Hon. Mr. Nixon:         I thank the member opposite for his question. The Yukon government Department of Tourism and Culture has worked with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, with Dawson, on this application and this important status, and we will continue on with that good work.

Mr. Silver:   I’ll come back to that minister.

This project is certainly a priority for the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and has received support from the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon, the City of Dawson and the Klondike Visitors Association, among others. It has also been identified as the number one private business opportunity in Dawson through regional planning resulting from implementation of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in final agreement.

The regional tourism industry sees UNESCO status as a key opportunity for growth with potentially far-reaching benefits for the whole community. The project has reached a critical stage and is now awaiting word on funding application to this government so that work can proceed from the Minister of Economic Development.

We know that the Premier did receive a letter from Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in some time ago, and we are wondering: Will the  government be funding this application?

Hon. Mr. Dixon:         I thank the member opposite for his question. It is something that I’ve discussed both with him and the Mayor of Dawson recently. I am aware that there is a funding application before the Department of Economic Development from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s development corporation. That funding application is in the process that is undertaken by the department to review such applications. These processes are important, and they are in place for a reason. That is to ensure that the generous funding opportunities that the department provides are distributed fairly and for the purposes for which they are intended.

The application currently is labelled for the strategic industries fund. That may be the way we want to move forward, or there may be another fund that may be more appropriate and better suited for funding this particular project. Either way, I am confident we will find a solution and am confident that, between my department and the Department of Tourism and Culture, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in and the City of Dawson, we’ll be able to find a way to move forward on this project.

Mr. Silver:   Thank you to the minister for his time on this topic. We did sit and speak about this very candidly. I do respect that project funding happens at a certain time, but this is of the essence right now.

We will move to the Minister of Tourism and Culture.

I mentioned that the tourism industry is strongly behind the World Heritage designation and to see the great potential of the Klondike region — if this application of UNESCO is successful, there would certainly be benefits to the rest of the Yukon from a tourism perspective as well. To the Minister of Tourism, specifically: What is his Department of Tourism doing to ensure that this project is successful?

Hon. Mr. Nixon:         In addressing the member opposite, the Department of Tourism and Culture continues to work with the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in. Yukon government contributes to the research of the advisory committee that was set up to explore the impact of gaining status for this area. This committee, formed in August of 2013, includes representation from the Yukon government’s Department of Tourism and Culture. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Tourism and Culture will continue to assist the community of Dawson and Parks Canada as they move toward this goal.