October 17, 2000
Agencies opted out of UFO event
by Chuck Tobin
Martin Jasek's cup ranneth over, at least for a time.
The 304 people who ended up registering for the first Yukon UFO Conference on Saturday shattered all expectations about attendance.
But on Monday, none - not one - of the 35 agencies invited, attended a workshop on improving the coordination of UFO reporting in the territory.
Sure, it was disappointing, suggests the primary organizer of the conference, which received $17,000 of the $25,000-budget from the Yukon government's Millennium Fund.
But not totally surprising, Jasek noted in an interview yesterday afternoon following the close of the workshop.
In the words of internationally-renowned UFO researcher Stan Friedman, who was sitting directly beside Jasek during the interview, Jasek said: "Most people don't know that most people know."
Translation: Most people don't know that most people believe in UFOs, and that believing in UFOs is OK.
Friedman said it's like the Gallup poll that shows the percentage of UFO believers rises with the level of education: the higher the education, the more likely the individual will believe in UFOs.
The poll, which was presented at the conference, showed that 66 per cent of those with college-level education believe in UFOs.
In many countries across the world, said Friedman, the existence of UFOs is readily accepted. Only in North America is there still ridicule of those who believe, or those who report seeing an unidentified flying object.
NavCan, the company responsible for air traffic control in Canada, was invited to the conference.
"The local people were told from higher up that it would be inappropriate to attend," Jasek said.
The RCMP, Transport Canada, first nations, municipalities, and others were also invited.
Whitehorse RCMP Const. Shawn Lemay said today the invitation went to the federal enforcement section of the Yukon M Division. However, that section was tied up attending a video-conference from Montreal on the national child-find program. (The conference, attended by several officers, was held in a room directly across the hall from the workshop.)
Jasek said a primary goal identified in the workshop includes increasing the number of local UFO investigators, a task currently held by Jasek and Lorraine Bretlyn.
Raising awareness through things like seminars or talks for professional groups has also been marked as a goal, Jasek said.
He explained that the participation of local agencies like the RCMP and air traffic controllers would increase the efficiency of tracking sightings. It would also create a central storing house for all reports, even those that end up in the waste basket the moment a caller hangs up.
Ultimately, Jasek added, it would reduce the workload on a particular agency by allowing it to redirect reports of UFO sightings.
It would be similar to what happens in the United States, Friedman added, referring to the 5,000 calls received annually at the National UFO Reporting Center in Seattle.
He said many agencies, including emergency response agencies like police detachments or fire departments, already direct UFO reports to the centre.
A primary goal of Saturday's conference was to reduce the stigma attached to those who report a UFO sighting or express their belief in UFOs.
As Friedman pointed out, those who attended represented a significant one per cent of the territory's population - which says something, he believes.
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