When the young man arrived in Whitehorse in 1949, he was looking for adventure – or maybe just a job. Over the years, he found both - and more.
Paul Lucier was nineteen when he made his way from Windsor to Whitehorse. His first job was as a deck hand on the SS Klondike, the riverboat that still provided a vital transportation link between Whitehorse and Dawson City.
In the mid-fifties, he became a driver with the Army Service Corp. and had by then become a close friend of our family. Sunday dinner on Strickland Street was often graced with the presence of this delightful, humble young man.
When I was a volunteer at the community-operated CFWH, Paul was often the driver sent by Service Corp. to deliver me to my job at the radio station, then located in a Quonset hut roughly where the Airport Chalet is today. Thank goodness for Service Corp. since most of the volunteers, like me, lived downtown and had no means of getting to work - except on foot.
I got to know Paul well from his days as a driver, and later as a man who was deeply involved in the Whitehorse sports scene. He coached the Town Merchants team during my last year as a senior men’s hockey player. I know it pained him to tell me that my days as a useful forward had somehow past even though I was still young, but somewhat out of shape.
His job with Service Corp. ended when the Army left the Yukon. Then he became a Whitehorse firefighter, and his involvement in community affairs began to get noticed.
In 1964, he successfully ran for Alderman and was re-elected in 1965. In 1966, he ran for mayor but was defeated by Howard Firth. That interrupted his political career until 1970, when he was again elected as an Alderman, a position he held until 1974 when he was elected Mayor of Whitehorse.
In the fall of 1975, he was getting ready to campaign for a second term as Mayor, but in October he received a phone call from the Prime Minister that changed his life. Pierre Trudeau was on the phone to offer him the job as the Yukon’s first Senator.
It was a task he took seriously. Not always did he toe the Liberal party line. He opposed gun control legislation because he said it would adversely affect Yukon native people who relied on hunting for their subsistence. He vigorously opposed the implementation of the GST tax and successfully helped hold legislation up with an effective, but finally losing filibuster on the Senate floor.
Paul was also a tireless worker for Yukon land claims and opened many doors for negotiators through the 1990s, when land claims talks were in danger of falling apart.
The turbulent 1990s were a time of political upheaval. He conducted an effective lobby during this time of proposed constitutional change, including ensuring the north had a say in changes that could come about if they had passed the Meech Lake Accord. He was also a supporter of an elected Senate.
The turbulence of the nineties was also a time of personal turbulence for Paul Lucier. He was diagnosed with cancer. But he kept up with his Senate duties for ten years until he finally succumbed to the disease in the summer of 1999, just days before his 69th birthday.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin
A time long ago and far away, I produced a series of radio programs for kids called The Adventurers of Ookpik, the arctic owl. The stories of Ookpik’s adventurers were brought to life through a variety of arctic animals who were given voice by young actors from the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal.
I have always had great respect for that school. The youngster, who portrayed whales, polar bears and foxes were on a steep learning curve. Greg Wanless, who played Ookpik, went on to become artistic director at the famed Gananoque Playhouse in Ontario. Dianne D’Quallia, who was terrific as the voice of whales and other arctic creatures, starred in a one woman show, Elizabeth Rex, at Stratford. One of the narrators, David Ferry, excelled as a character actor on many television and movie dramas.
So it was with great interest that I learned that a Yukon-raised actress had graduated from the National Theatre school in 1999. Her name is Amy Sloan. Many of you may know Amy, her father, Dave Sloan, who was once the Yukon’s Minister of Health, and her mother Mary who was also an actress.
Amy lives near Hollywood these days, but her roots are in theatre in the Yukon.
She was born in Manitoba where she spent her first year. The family moved to Pelly Crossing and then to Watson Lake, where they lived for twelve years.
In 1992, they settled in Whitehorse where Amy attended the Porter Creek Junior Secondary School, where she’ll be remembered as President of the student council. After graduating from F H Collins, Amy’s first professional acting job was in the Gaslight Follies at the Palace Grande Theatre in Dawson City.
Then she attended the National Theatre School in Montreal, and graduated in 1999. Within a month, she was booked for two national commercials and a lead role in a television film. She also earned rave reviews for her role as Mary Warren in the Centaur Theatre’s production of "The Crucible" in Montreal.
In Whitehorse, Amy played the role of Catherine in the Guild Hall Theatre’s production of Dave Auburn's play "Proof."
Catherine is a young woman who has spent years caring for her unstable father, Robert. Robert was a brilliant mathematician in his younger years, but later became unable to function without the help of his daughter. His death brings Hal, a former student of Robert, into Catherine's life. She ends up falling in love with him, but in the process gravely misses her deceased father while resenting the great sacrifices she made for him.
In the past few years in the United States, Amy has worked with such notable actors as Halle Berry, Alan Alda, Ben Stiller, and Penelope Cruz. She has also worked with prominent directors like Richard Donner, Martin Scorsese and The Farrelly Brothers. After a North American search, Martin Scorsese cast her in the Academy Award winning film "The Aviator" in which she played the mother of young Howard Hughes. Some of her recent television credits include "Without a Trace," "Cold Case, "Gilmore Girls" and "C.S.I." Amy Sloan of Whitehorse has done well.
Too bad she wasn’t at the Theatre school when I was casting Ookpik animal voices. I’ll bet Amy Sloan would have had fun playing a Yukon salmon.
A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin