Yukon Nuggets

1964 Yukon Nuggets

James Harbic


When James Harbic became the Parliament Hill Correspondent for the Whitehorse Star, Lester Pearson was Prime Minister, Erik Nielsen was gaining national prominence as an opposition backbencher, Canada was in the midst of the great flag debate and the Canada Pension Plan was just being implemented.

Flo Whyard, Editor of the Star, called Harbic's story on the introduction of the pension plan "the only one of the many I read that I could understand." According to Whyard, "James Harbic's reactions were on a par with the average voter."

The trouble was that in 1964, Harbic wasn't an average voter. He wasn’t old enough to vote, and he’d never been to the Yukon. At fourteen years old, the Ottawa high-school student was the youngest member ever, of the Parliamentary Press Gallery.

How did it happen? While comic books inspired most 14-year-olds, Harbic had become captivated by Pierre Berton, Jack London and Robert Service. He wrote away for everything he could get his hands on about the Yukon, including the Whitehorse Star.

Flo Whyard remembers one day getting a letter from a kid in Ottawa who wanted to write a newspaper column. He said he read our paper, and that he was fourteen. Publisher Bob Erlam and I thought he had earned something, so the Star wrote and said `You're on."'

Today James Harbic is a well known Ottawa defense lawyer, but fondly remembers his days as a columnist for the Whitehorse Star, for which he was paid five dollars a column. He says he always tried to put a twist on his stories. Flo Whyard recalls that the 14-year-old thought like an adult. Whyard said that the Star started putting Harbic's age under his picture after they discovered that most readers thought he was a grown-up member of the Press gallery.

As the Yukon correspondent, Harbic frequently interviewed Erik Nielsen. In the summer of 1966, Nielsen arranged a bus trip for Harbic to travel to the Yukon. When he finally arrived in Watson Lake, he saw a copy of the Whitehorse Star with the headline, "Harbic is Coming".

The young reporter, who had never seen the Yukon, was dumbfounded. In Whitehorse, Flo Whyard met him and gave him the tour, and it was just like Robert Service described it. His last column for the Star was about the centennial celebrations of 1967. Then the youngster’s romance with joumalism waned, and the Press Gallery's youngest-ever member decided to study law in university.

Nevertheless, the one-time Whitehorse Star Ottawa correspondent still finds time to write. He published a book called "Profiles in Nobility, the 125 Greatest Canadians." Not surprisingly, Robert Service is on James Harbic's list.


A CKRW Yukon Nugget by Les McLaughlin.

Les McLaughlin

Les McLaughlin

As storyteller, radio man, and music producer, Les proved a passionate preserver of Yukon heritage throughout his life — nowhere more evident than as the author and voice of CKRW’s “Yukon Nuggets,” from its inception until his passing in 2011.