North

2 Yukon 'preppers' get ready for when — not if — disaster hits the North

Two Whitehorse-area friends, who call themselves 'preppers,' are preparing for when the territory can't rely on supplies coming up from southern Canada.

Sonny Gray building sunken greenhouse to prepare for weather, economic, or world-conflict disaster

Joel Gaetz, left, is the financial guy and Sonny Gray is the ideas guy. They're both preparing for 'when' a disaster hits Yukon and cuts off supplies from southern Canada for an extended period. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

World conflicts, economic chaos and extreme weather are disasters that could force Northerners to fend for themselves, say two Yukon "preppers."

Sonny Gray and Joel Gaetz are preparing for when — "not if"  — a major event occurs and supplies from southern Canada aren't available. Something similiar to this happened in 2012, when mudslides, floods and highway closures led to bare shelves in Whitehorse grocery stores.

So Gray took it upon himself to build a sunken greenhouse on his farmland in the Whitehorse area where he lives with his wife and five sons. He's also clearing fields where he will plant oats and peas and raise pigs, goats and rabbits.

Gray is raising pigs, goats and rabbits as part of his plan for self-sufficiency when the territory is cut off from the south. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

"It's my job as a husband and a father to be prepared and have something, provide food and security for them, right?"

All Yukoners need to be ready for a large-scale disaster, Gray says.

He says the ice storm in 1998 in Quebec is what made him rethink the way he was living. That natural disaster caused a state of emergency from eastern Ontario to southern Quebec, cutting off power to millions of people, some of whom suffered from hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning. 

At the time, Gray's family was the only one in the neighbourhood with a wood stove, which ended up being imperative.

He says farming is another proactive way of preparing for a potential disaster.

"If you look at that Great Depression, for example, the people who survived, and did the best, whose lives didn't change too, too much — other than the fact that half their family moved in with them from the city — was farmers," said Gray.

"They were already prepared."

Gray's pigs on his Whitehorse-area farm. (Meagan Deuling/CBC)

His friend Joel Gaetz, an accountant, said he has enough food and ammunition stockpiled to last through a winter.

"There is a very good likely chance that there will be an economic event, whether it's a recession or something closer to what we saw in the 1930s with the Great Depression," said Gaetz.

"And being up north in the Yukon, in a place where we can't produce enough food to sustain ourselves, is something that's very concerning for me and my family.

"So I've took it upon myself to start preparing."

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