The Yukon is a loosely knit confederation of settlements in the extreme northwest of the Canadian Arctic. It is a direct continuation of the former Canadian territory and since 2004 has been associated with the Commonwealth of Australia and New Zealand. Modern services are only slowly being restored to the Yukon, and the territory remains a wild frontier in every way.
The Mackenzie and Stikine Mountains isolate the Yukon from the Northwest Territories to the east and British Colombia to the south. Since nature separated the Yukon from its neighbors, it seems natural that it would be a distinct territory; however, for much of its history, its population was so low that a separate government hardly seemed justified.
The Yukon was carved out of the Northwest Territories in 1898 at the height of its world-famous gold rush. However, the territory quickly declined, and its population dropped below 5,000 by 1920. From the time of World War II, the Canadian government began to improve the Yukon's infrastructure and services, paving the way for growth in the mining of other minerals. A small tourist sector began to take shape around this time, and by 1981 the population had risen to 23,000, around three-quarters of whom lived in the capital. The Yukon depended on imports from the south for almost all of its food, fuel, and manufactured goods.
Although there were no nuclear targets in the Yukon, the capital - and most of the people - faced famine conditions within a few weeks of the attacks. The territorial government quickly made contact by air with surviving communities outside the territory's borders, but the difficulty of travel meant that these early contacts would not last.
Government Leader Chris Pearson announced a strict system of rationing to conserve Whitehorse's dwindling food supplies, but it was clear that even this would not save the community. A settlement that size simply could not live off the land in the Yukon's harsh climate. Many people began to leave for more favorable climates. A few large exoduses departed the capital in the first year or two. A sizable band reached the port town of Skagway, Alaska in relative safety. Others who went south into British Columbia fared worse, as parts of that province were given over to violence. Several wandering clans in the region today have known Yukon origins. A small few eventually settled in the growing community of Prince George in the early 1990s.
The Yukon's resources and population shrank quickly. Daily life in the 1990s had much in common with the 1890s. Local wood and coal provided fuel, and hunting and trapping were primary sources of food. Much of the remaining population of Whitehorse dispersed to smaller, self-sufficient settlements in the surrounding area. Some groups, in order to survive by hunting, adopted nomadic lifestyles, moving between settlements that were only occupied for part of the year.
The idea of the Yukon Territory persisted, however. The Legislative Assembly (from this point on, usually called the Territorial Assembly) passed a resolution in 1985 that can be considered the beginning of the new Yukon. Every settlement still in contact with the capital was called upon to send a delegate to the Assembly's next session, so that it could better represent the scattered communities of the territory now that Whitehorse was so depleted. The 1986 Assembly took steps to re-configure the government to fit the new situation. Deprived of resources, the government's main role would be to foster unity and resolve disputes. A census in 1987 helped show exactly what parts of the territory were still participating in the government.
Whitehorse and the other communities have engaged in trade with the Free State of Alaska and others in former British Columbia over the years, but have generally kept to themselves. Beginning in the 1990s, the outside world began to rediscover the Yukon.
Reliable communication with Alaska was restored c. 1989. Alaska was then under the authority of the American Provisional Administration, and the Territorial Assembly was the first Canadian survivor government that US authorities were aware of, so it caused considerable excitement. The APA was in no position to offer help, however, and did not even send an official envoy until 1993 in a mission that combined exploration with diplomacy. The report described the Yukon as "a tribal confederation in essence", noting that while the forms of Canadian territorial government had been preserved, the Yukon had very little in common with a modern state.
In late 1992, an armed group, wearing a variation of RCMP uniforms, crossed into Yukon territory from the mountains to the east. Claiming to be from the surviving territorial government there, calling itself the Northwest Alliance, they presented their credentials to the assembly at Whitehorse. Over the winter, they met with both Yukon and Alaskan officials there, finding out as much about the situation as they could, before they left to return to Fort Smith in the Spring.
The surviving Canadian government sent a fleet to explore the Pacific in 1994-5 that famously made contact with the thriving Commonwealth of Victoria. Although the fleet commanders had been informed of the surviving Territorial Assembly in Whitehorse, they decided that the necessary detour to Alaska would not be worth it, resolving to send an expedition at a future date. The Victorians, however, did send emissaries to the Yukon in 1996 as part of an overall policy of exploring the entire region of western North America. Yukoners were happy to learn of another surviving Canadian province, but the news did not much change daily life in the territory.
Alaska became an independent state when the American Provisional Administration disbanded in 1995. With independence Alaskans became more interested in their nearest neighbor. Trade resumed along the Yukon River for the first time in decades, the river being, once again, more reliable than the roads. The Territorial Assembly sent a permanent envoy to Sitka - the Yukon's first diplomat abroad. A diplomat was sent to Victoria in 1998, but no permanent embassy was established.
Commissioner Douglas Bell retired in 1998 after a very long term helping lead the Yukon's survivor government. The Territorial Assembly decided to merge his position with that of Government Leader: since Canada no longer existed, it did not make sense to maintain a separate office to represent its government. From then on, the Yukon's Commissioner, chosen by the Assembly, acted as both head of state and government.
A Canadian mission did arrive in the year 2000. The Yukoners warmly greeted the new arrivals and expressed the wish for a reunited Canada some time in the far-off future. Bell, Pearson, and other local leaders were presented with the Order of Canada in recognition of their heroic leadership. Despite this and other similarly Canadian outpourings of good will, both nations recognized that geography kept them very far apart for the time being.
The growing river trade had brought a small number of Alaskans into the Yukon. Beginning in the late 1990s, a few began investing in small mining operations. The Alaskan government voted in 1999 to send aid to help modernize some of the Yukon's key institutions. By and large these were the same institutions as had existed before Doomsday: the Mounted Police, Whitehorse General Hospital, Yukon College. Alaskan aid helped provide these key organizations with such amenities as electric power. Bandit raids, always a problem to the south of Whitehorse, could be more effectively stopped.
By the early 2000s, talk began to circulate about the possibility of the Yukon's merging with Alaska, in light of the ever-closer economic relationship between them. While some Yukoners liked this idea, it never had much chance of success. The territorial government may have been reduced to a "tribal confederation", but it had far too much history to be abandoned. The territory had survived Doomsday intact, and most Yukoners were tremendously proud of that. On the other hand, it was hard to ignore the fact that any future improvements would depend on Alaska, and, indirectly, on Australia-New Zealand.
Representatives from Jervis Bay arrived in 2001 and offered the Yukon a Compact of Free Association, which in the Yukon's case would basically be a formalized agreement on government aid. For three years the entire territory debated its options, discussing everything from keeping the status quo to union with Canada, Alaska or even Victoria, to declaring independence outright. In the end, the Assembly decided to maintain virtual independence while accepting aid from Australia-New Zealand. They agreed to the ANZC's terms, joining the Aussie-Kiwi bloc in a solemn ceremony in Whitehorse.
Becoming an associated state put the Yukon in contact for the first time with the wider world. Being part of a community of mainly Oceanian nations was somewhat jarring at first, as was the sudden exposure to news from Asia and South America.
Victoria made contact with the surviving British monarchy in the Dominion of South Africa in 2005. For Yukoners, this raised the question of continued loyalty to the monarchy. The ANZC was ambivalent. The Compact of Free Association gave the Yukon the right to join a revived Canadian federation when one should arise, and presumably this would include the Crown. On the other hand, King Andrew and the DSA were internationally unpopular, and no one seemed to be in a rush to forge ties with them. The prevailing opinion in the Yukon was to "wait and see".
The Yukon did not immediately join the League of Nations in 2008 due to remoteness and general mistrust. The shock of being grouped with the Pacific islands on the international scene had not quite worn off, and anyway many Yukoners did not see what benefits membership would bring. However, others supported the idea of international cooperation, and the ANZC, eager to add a member to its voting bloc, applied some pressure. The Yukon finally requested to join and was admitted as a member early in 2010.
On April 18th, 2011, after weeks of debate in the Territorial Assembly on the subject, and especially in light of events occurring in the former United States, a vote was held on the matter of what to do with the subject of the Crown, in relation to King Andrew. In a vote of 16 to 9, the Assembly passed the measure, officially recognizing Andrew as the King of the Yukon, pending approval from the various communities in the confederation. A special session was held on On September 9th, before the onset of winter. After having returned home to speak with their constituents, the representatives returned to the capital for another vote. By a slightly increased margin of 17 to 8, the measure was again approved, recognizing Andrew as King of the Yukon.
In the following decade, the Yukon continued to develop, but slowly. The initial burst of enthusiasm did not meet expectations: Australia-New Zealand aid could only do so much. Likewise the restored connection to the monarchy did not bring many immediate concrete changes.
The face of the government began to change in the 2010s as organized political parties appeared in the Yukon for the first time - see "Government" below. The Progressive Conservatives formed as a pro-ANZ, pro-business party. The Greens formed in response as a party emphasizing ecology and First Nations rights; and the Yukon Party became the embodiment of anti-ANZ, isolationistic reaction. However, the parties did not capture the entire government. Many leaders remained independent.
Some steady improvements came in. Electric power was restored in Whitehorse. Road and rail connections were completed southward to Haines and Skagway in Alaska - and to maintain them, the territory took control of the northwestern corner of the former British Columbia. New scholarships became available that allowed a small number of Yukoners to study at universities in the South Pacific.
Manufactured goods from Australia and New Zealand also began to trickle in to the Yukon. Most of these entered the barter economy out in the country, but some shops in the capital became the anchor of a growing monetary system.
The head of state is the monarch, head of the House of Windsor and claimant to the thrones of Great Britain and Canada. The monarchy was formally restored in the Yukon on September 9, 2011. The king resides in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and is represented in the Yukon by a Viceroy.
The Yukon is governed by the Territorial Assembly, a council of 21 to 28 members. Its size fluctuates because some outlying communities participate only sporadically. The Assembly elects the Commissioner of the Yukon, who acts as head of government. The Yukon has an independent judiciary.
Assembly meetings occur once a year and generally last a few weeks in the late spring. Many delegates must travel on horseback for days to get to Whitehorse. The opening and closing of an Assembly are times of celebration in the capital, and Whitehorse is lit up by parties, ceremonies, and performances. In the smaller communities, most delegates are chosen informally by consensus, and it is common for older MTAs to handpick their own successors, bringing them as aides to a few Assemblies before stepping aside to let the new generation take over. Whitehorse itself, which still sends a number of delegates, still holds formal annual elections in the different neighborhoods.
The census is one of the Assembly's biggest responsibilities, because it is the only real way to know who, exactly, its citizens are. After the census of 1987, it was ten years before the Assembly conducted another. After that, it resolved to return to Canadian practice of a count every five years. The most recent census was in 2012.
The Assembly before the war was organized around political parties, but the party system faded during the Yukon's first few years on its own. Government passed to a Grand Coalition in 1984, and the Assembly of 1986, the one that for the first time drew members from each post-apocalypse settlement, included a large number of independents. Gradually a system emerged that closely paralleled the consensus government that had been taking shape in the Northwest Territories in the early '80s. Governments are chosen by majority vote of the entire Territorial Assembly, and there is no formal Opposition. Ministers stay in the capital for most of the year but are allowed a few weeks after the close of an Assembly to go home and get their affairs in order.
Political parties have recently arrived in the Yukon. In the postwar years, factions emerged at times around certain issues, such as association with the ANZC, restoration of the Crown, and the amount and distribution of government services. Former Commissioner Ted Staffen described himself as favoring "openness, development, and integration" - essentially pro-business and pro-ANZ. Ideological allies of Staffen formed themselves into the Progressive Party shortly after he stepped down - the term borrowed from the old Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, with the idea that business-friendly conservative policies are the Yukon's surest route to progress. A Green Party emerged in response. Its leader is the current Commissioner, Katherine Van Bibber, a leader and member of the Champagne-Aishihik First Nations near Whitehorse and the Yukon's first delegate in the League of Nations. Besides environmental issues, the Greens strongly advocate indigenous issues. The party as a whole is ambivalent on ties to the ANZC, though Van Bibber herself, as a longtime diplomat, is an enthusiastic supporter of the alliance. A more isolationist-minded Yukon Party has also been formed.
However, these parties do not dominate political life. Many MTAs remain unaffiliated; in particular, people who might support the Liberal parties of the ANZC or Canada have not created any formal party organization. The Consensus model of government prevails, and parties not in government do not form any Opposition. Furthermore, party organization is still in a rather embryonic stage.
Security and defense
Security is maintained by the Royal Mounted Police, who answer to the Assembly. The Mounties receive a good deal of equipment from the ANZC, and some officers have recently received training in Alaska. Australia-New Zealand has only one outpost in the territory, an airstrip and scientific installation run by the Air Force a few km outside Whitehorse.
Since it is so isolated, the Yukon has faced few real security threats in its post-Doomsday history. The Mounties had to intervene in food riots during the famine of 1983-5, and after that there were some problems of roving bandits. A few raids came from the south in the late 80s, prompting the Mounties to build a fort near Watson Lake. In general, however, most would-be attackers avoided the barren stretches of the Yukon. Traveling long distance by road can still be dangerous, and most people travel armed when they must go between settlements.
The Yukon does not do much of this. It maintains only two permanent diplomatic missions abroad: one in Alaska and one in Jervis Bay. It engages in regular relations with Victoria but does not have a resident diplomat there. The ANZC is authorized to handle any additional business the Yukon might have with other nations. This is done through the Foreign Affairs Department's Office for Arctic Affairs (formerly Alaskan Affairs).
Since the beginning of Free Association in 2004, there is no question that the Yukon's relationship with the ANZC is its most important. Certainly the ANZC had a variety of reasons for wanting to bring the Yukon into its orbit. On the one hand, this was a time when the Commonwealth was seeking to extend its influence in the Americas. It had a sent naval expedition to Panama in 2003 and would again in 2005. Certainly, a new client state in mainland North America would be one more area closed to Siberian or South American influence in the future. The Yukon's mineral wealth also showed promise, although clearly it would be many years before it could be transported cheaply enough to be profitable. On the other hand, as a former Canadian territory, the Yukon shared some real cultural links with Australia, New Zealand, and the former American territories in the Commonwealth and its network of allies. Cut off from the rest of the world, Yukoners saw ANZ-backed Alaska as their only viable link to modernity. Many ANZ leaders have been highly supportive of efforts to develop Canada and have pointed to the possibility of a future continent-wide federation. It must be concluded that the ANZC has both altruistic and self-interested reasons for getting involved in the Yukon.
The Yukon only recently pursued membership in the League of Nations. Most Yukoners would probably have been content to stay out of the LoN, but Australia-New Zealand strongly urged them to join, no doubt looking to add one loyal voting member. LoN supporters within the Yukon saw membership as a way for their country to re-connect with the rest of the world and participate in something greater than the local concerns that had so long dominated public life in the territory. South American nations objected when the Yukon first applied, contending that the ANZC had "manufactured" an "artificial" nation, and that "a few thousand people in huts" do not merit League membership. An impassioned speech on the Yukon's behalf by the Nigerian delegate helped sway the vote, and the Yukon was accepted as a member early in 2010.
Culture and economy
Despite being connected to Australia-New Zealand, the Yukon remains a wilderness where most people subsist off the land or provide for small local markets. Trade with Alaska and the ANZC has led to some development of its mineral resources, especially silver, lead, and zinc. ANZ money also repaired and maintains the Klondike Highway and the White Pass and Yukon Railroad, which provide a direct route from Whitehorse to the port of Skagway, Alaska. The Commonwealth dollar, introduced informally in the late '90s, has not replaced barter as the main means of exchange.
Traditional First Nations crafts made a comeback out of necessity, as hand-crafted goods were needed to survive after the collapse of trade with the south. The Yukon has developed a distinct style of clothing and decoration that has caught the eye of ANZ artists and scholars.
Yukon College remained a place of higher education throughout the post-Doomsday period, but the deterioration of town life in Whitehorse, and the decline of the market economy, meant that neither students nor professors could afford to stay there full-time. The ANZC has made supporting the college one of its top priorities in the territory.
There are no major professional or collegiate athletic competitions in the Yukon. Amateur ice hockey, lacross, baseball and football leagues, each based out of Whitehorse, represent the highest level of organized competitive sports. Although there are no territorial junior league teams, the business community sponsors a number of local hockey teams. High school teams are active and partake in competitions with schools in neighbouring Alaska, and a few local athletes have flourished on the Canadian sports scene.
Yukon sent a national team to compete in the first Oceanic Winter Games in February 2020, its first time participating in a multisport international event.
The annual thousand-mile Yukon Quest sled dog race between Whitehorse and Fairbanks, Alaska, is considered one of the toughest in the world.