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Post Info TOPIC: Wal Mart has real, honest competition in Canada!
Uke


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Wal Mart has real, honest competition in Canada!
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Time catches up to Canada's 'Ikea' of dumps

Scavengers chafe at new strictures

Canada's leading literary magazine has written about it. The local newspaper devotes a weekly column to it. And it is the hottest issue going in this arctic territorial capital.

It is not a zoning dispute or the war in Iraq that has Yellowknifers all steamed up, but the Yellowknife municipal garbage dump - and the prospect that the city might impose a fee for dumping everyday refuse.

That is a pressing concern to the estimated 750 people (out of a total population of 20,000) who go to the dump every week and make their way through the bugs, gulls and odors to pick through mounds of garbage that hold an assortment of toys, furniture, electrical equipment, stereo components, lumber, plywood, roofing materials, musical instruments and computer and auto parts, to name a few of the items recently scavenged.

"This is the Ikea of garbage dumps," said Joe Paithouski, 52, a new Yellowknife resident who has found the dump to be a good place to meet people. "Why spend hundreds of dollars on gardening stuff when you can get the stuff here free and be choosy? And I stress the word 'choosy."'

The Yellowknife dump owes its extraordinarily rich pickings to the fact that this is a transient community where it is prohibitively costly to ship furniture and other hefty items in and out. Air cargo fares in the North are exorbitant, and the nearest city, Edmonton, is more than a 15-hour drive away. The dump has been a cherished economic resource and cultural mainstay since the 1930s, when people had to rely on riverboats and bulldozers to pull sleds over the frozen Great Slave Lake to get their possessions up here.

Shopping at the dump may seem odd these days. With diamond mines opening across the territory and oil companies poised to begin building a big natural gas pipeline project nearby, home prices are soaring. Yellowknife restaurants have the longest and most expensive wine lists in the North.

But the dump may be more essential than ever since the arrival of a substantial upper middle class that has jacked up the cost of living. The monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment runs about $800, or650, more than double that in other northern cities, and food costs about 20 percent more.

"If you can cut costs with the price of fuel what it is these days, it's all to the good," noted Bill Cameron, a 34-year-old diamond processor. "I come twice a week. Once, I found an outboard motor that would have cost me $2,800 new. I built a storage shed from plywood I found here, and I even found the boxes of nails and shingles for my roof that I needed in one or two afternoons."

On his latest trip he found a hockey goal net, Christmas lights still in their boxes, a bunch of glass dishes, cups and a stereo receiver.

The dump is probably the only place in town where diamond mine managers and homeless Native Canadians (making a living scavenging for deposit cans and bottles), rub shoulders and greet one another.

"This is Yellowknife's gathering ground," said Scott Cairns, 34, a geologist who brought his 7-year-old daughter, Mary, out to the dump one recent Sunday afternoon. "I have colleagues who are millionaires from doing well on the diamond stocks and they come out here all the time. They are not ashamed to be here at all."

Cairns said he found more than $10,000 worth of lumber in the dump when he was building an addition to his house a few years ago. "We're at the end of the world so there always has to be good stuff left out here," he said.

The Yellowknife dump is such an integral part of life here that it has been the subject of television and radio news features for years.

The Walrus, Canada's leading literary magazine, published an article on the dump last year titled, "The Last Great City Dump."

"Growth has tamed much of the frontier character, but not the desire to embrace the mythology of frontier life," the article said.

"As Yellowknife has become more ordinary, the effort to seize on quirky traditions has become more pronounced."

Yellowknifer, the local newspaper, runs a weekly column called "Tales from the Dump," written by Walt Humphries, 57, a prospector who is known as the dump's unofficial curator. For Humphries, the dump is a storehouse of homespun wisdom and sociology, as well as the source for the planters, birdfeeder, scarecrow and caribou antlers that decorate his garden. He estimates that the total value of goods residents take out of the dump every year reaches $800,000.



-- Edited by Uke at 13:20, 2008-07-20

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By Clifford Krauss
Published: THURSDAY, JULY 14, 2005
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(Page 2 of 2)

In a recent column, he wrote about finding a cookbook at the dump called "The Bachelor's Guide to Ward Off Starvation." Inside, he found a handwritten note from a mother to her son. "A cookbook from your mother is something you are supposed to keep and cherish all your life and pass onto your kids as a family heirloom," Humphries lectured. "It is not supposed to end up in the Yellowknife city dump."

The dump's carefree days may be ending, though. The city began levying dumping fees on July 1 for people leaving appliances and batteries, and there is talk in City Hall of charging a modest fee next year, something in the realm of $5, for people dumping smaller items.

People who use the dump are outraged by such measures, and alarmed by rumors that the city will eventually do what virtually every other municipality in Canada has done and close the dump entirely for fear of injury lawsuits.

"I say if they close this down to the public, what's the reason to live here anymore?" Gary Tees, 53, a territorial government worker, said with a scowl. An amateur musician, he has retrieved guitars and amplifiers from the garbage. He added, "It would spoil what makes Yellowknife unique: the freedom to do things you can't do anywhere else."



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