February 3, 1938 (18th Parliament, 3rd Session)


Martha Louise Black

Independent Conservative


While congratulating the hon. members who moved and seconded the address in reply to the speech from the throne, I have wondered if they realized the compliment that their government has paid them. It is somewhat over thirty-five years ago that a former hon. member of this house told me he had been selected by the then Mr. Wilfrid Laurier, leader of the Liberal party, to move the address in reply to the speech from the throne. This young man, afterwards a commissioner in the Yukon territory, was at that time only twenty-one years of age. It was a privilege and a compliment that he will pass down to his children and grandchildren.
I have listened with a great deal of attention to the previous speaker. The hon. member
lived in the Yukon in the very early years of his life. I thought, as I listened to his statement on the conditions of the middle prairie provinces, that he was either very brave or very foolhardy. Time will tell which.
We in the Yukon have perhaps fewer problems than the majority of people in Canada. We have fewer desires; our main desire, our chief wish, is to be let alone. That we seem to have gained in some small measure. We would ask the government, however, for consideration of old age pensions. Men and women living in the Yukon territory work for their living or they starve; as long as they are able to work they work. Young and old alike, they feel that if they have the strength and ability they must work rather than accept help from the government or from individuals. But when old age comes on or ill health strikes them, then they do ask that the government help them. Twenty dollars a month is given in the Yukon. It is given more in the form of a dole than as an old age pension, and our people there who are obliged to accept it find fault with the way in which it is passed out. There are many Yukoners who have lived there since 1896, 1897 and 1898, who are now too old or too poor in health to work. They would like to go to the coast to live. That is impossible; no matter how long they have lived in the Yukon or how hard they may have worked or no matter how diligently they may have helped in building up the mining industry in that country, if they leave the Yukon the government does not. give them that paltry sum of S20 a month. While I realize that the Minister of Finance (Mr. Dunning) has burdens which he sometimes thinks are almost too heavy to bear, I should like him, if he has an odd moment to spare now and then, to consider what $20 a month would mean to the Yukoners who would like to finish their days on the coast. The increase in population is very small. We had from March 1936 to March 1937 eighty-eight deaths, largely of men and a few women who had been in the Yukon since the very early days, who had worked there and lived and died in the country they had grown to love.
Recently there has been considerable talk about air mail in the north. I heard a Vancouver man, a friend of the Minister of National Defence (Mr. Mackenzie), say that Vancouver had finally awakened and emerged from the tomb when the people there asked that an air mail service be established from Vancouver to the north. It was only a few short days ago that the first trip was made from Vancouver into Dawson, Yukon. The
The Address-Mrs. Black

ship was piloted by W. S. Holland, a very well known pilot. The only passenger was the president of Northern Airways who owned the plane-George Simmons. On the way to the Yukon they stopped at Ashcroft, Bums Lake, Telegraph Creek, Atlin, Carcross, Mayo and finally Dawson. The trip was made with these stop-overs, in winter weather, in wind and storm, in less than forty-eight hours.
This is the logical air route from Vancouver and the coast cities; for over ninety per cent of the mail and freight going into the Yukon goes via Vancouver. Why not send it by that route as far as we possibly can to help to build up the coast city of Vancouver? When men or women, in the fall, wish for a surcease from the cold weather, they wish to spend their winter holidays either in Vancouver or in Victoria or some other city on the coast; and when one reads in the newspapers of the temperatures in the prairie provinces one wonders-"Coming from the Yukon, why go to Edmonton?"
The tourist traffic is a matter of vital importance to us. The local government does comparatively little to build it up, but what it can do, it does. The one transportation company there does its very best in every possible way, but it is hampered every season by changing river conditions. Every time the ice goes out, every time there is high water, there are new river beds both in the Yukon and in the Stewart and the Mayo rivers, ft is impossible for new pilots to come in and carry on as the old pilots have done. A year ago last summer we lost two of the finest vessels in the fleet. This summer we were fortunate, both in regard to steamers and in the air. In fact, not one of the three concerns in the Yukon, owning the fleet of ships we have now, has ever suffered a fatal accident, which I think is probably a record for most enterprises of this kind.
I have seen in the newspapers recently, and have heard considerable talk, about the increase in the radio licence fee. This pronouncement of mine may not be very favourably received by either friends or enemies, but I do not think that S2.50 is too much to ask.

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