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First woman to be named Justice of the Peace for the Yukon Territorial Government
First woman to be appointed Judge of Juvenile Court, Commissioner of Marriages,
and clerk of the Small Debts Court for the Yukon Territorial Government
First woman to be elected Mayor for the City of Whitehorse
First woman to be appointed Commissioner of the Yukon
The Hon. Ione J. Christensen
Born in Dawson Creek, British Columbia on October 10, 1933
Political Affiliation: Liberal Party of Canada
Legislative Career: Appointed Commissioner to the Yukon on January 20, 1979. Summoned to the Senate on September 2, 1999.
Honours and Awards: Appointed Member of the Order of Canada on April 13, 1994.
A fourth-generation Yukoner, Ione Jean Christensen is the only child of Martha Amelia Ballentine and RCMP officer Gordon Irwin Cameron. In Fort Selkirk, she enjoyed a happy but isolated childhood since there were few children in her environment. She spent most of her time exploring new paths, trapping rabbits and squirrels, and caring for her dog. She was a strong, resourceful and very active child.
Her mother home-schooled her briefly and later sent her to Dawson City to her grandparents in order to attend school. However, Ione had difficulties focusing on her education since her new school routine was very different from her previous activities. After two years, Ms. Cameron decided it would be best to send her to Queen Margaret's private school on Vancouver Island. In 1953, she completed her high school education in Whitehorse, and she then moved to her aunt's in California to study business administration at San Mateo College.
Ms. Christensen began her career with various positions with the government of the Yukon Territory. She began with the Treasury Branch and gradually moved up to increasingly senior positions. Before 1975 she had been among other things, Acting Director of the Personnel Department, Justice of the Peace, and Juvenile Court Judge. Her dedication, leadership and hard work had increased her visibility within the community, up to the point where she was asked to run for Mayor of the city of Whitehorse. In 1975, the population of Whitehorse elected Ms. Christensen as mayor and she served for two terms.
In August of 1978, the Liberal administration of Pierre Trudeau approached her about becoming Commissioner of the Yukon. After a period of negotiations, she was appointed to the position on January 20, 1979. However, during that summer, the Liberals were defeated and replaced by the Progressive Conservative administration of Joe Clark. Later, the powers of the Commissioner of the Yukon were greatly reduced. Consequently, Ms. Christensen resigned on October 9, 1979. She felt quite strongly that the newly redefined role of the Yukon Commissioner was now vaguely described and limited to a mediator function. Still interested in pursuing a career in politics, she ran as the Liberal candidate for the Yukon Member of Parliament but lost by a small margin. After this defeat, she decided to focus on herself and her family.
She emerged from these political experiences strong and moved on to various executive positions in companies such as Hospitality North Ltd., Petro-Canada and Panarctic Oil Ltd. At the same time she contributed to various federal and territorial government reports on subjects such as mining and waste management.
In 1994, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada for her life accomplishments, which included "[...] promoting, supporting and encouraging the preservation of Yukon history [...]." Her father was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in 1980. They are the only combination of father and daughter to hold this honour. In 1999, she was appointed to the Senate of Canada representing the Yukon.
Throughout her full career, Ione Christensen managed to be present for her family, to co-author several books, to become a partner in the consulting firm Cameras North, and to hike the famous Chilkoot Trail over 20 times. More information on Senator Ione Christensen can be found on her website at the following address: www.sen.parl.gc.ca/ichristensen/English/home.htm
The Canadian Parliamentary Guide / Guide parlementaire canadien. Scarborough, Ont.: Gale Canada, 2005, p. 164-165.
Chatelaine Presents Who's Who of Canadian Women. Toronto: Who's Who Publications, 1999, p. 181-182.
Christensen, Ione. "The Candle." Canadian Fiction Magazine. No. 83, Annual (1993), p. 87-92.
Christensen, Ione. "Fort Selkirk." Up Here: Life in Canada's North. Vol. 16, no. 1 (January 2000), p. 28.
Christensen, Ione. "Memories on the Wind." Up Here: Life in Canada's North. Vol. 5, no. 4 (July 1989), p. 65-67.
Christensen, Ione J. Chilkoot, the Gold Rush Trail. Whitehorse, Yukon: Cameras North, ©1994.
Christensen, Ione J. Kluane: The Wilderness Park. Whitehorse, Yukon: Cameras North, ©1991.
Christensen, Ione J. Whitehorse, the Wilderness City. Whitehorse, Yukon: Cameras North, ©1989.
Hayden, Joyce. Yukon's Women of Power: Political Pioneers in a Northern Canadian Colony. Whitehorse, Yukon: Windwalker Press, ©1999, p. 268-310.
MacLeod, Michael. "Liberal Dose of Optimism." Maclean's. Vol. 93, no. 5 (February 4, 1980), p. 17.
Spitzer, Aaron. "The Senator and the Chilkoot." Up Here: Life in Canada's North. Vol. 20, no. 5 (July/August 2004), p. 54-60.