Why are “Mounties” in Juneau’s Fourth of July Parade?
It is the responsibility of the Juneau Sister Cities Committee, an Assembly-appointed advisory board, to promote and foster mutually beneficial cultural exchanges, international municipal cooperation, and bonds of friendship and understanding with Juneau’s established Sister Cities. The committee is governed and supported by a resolution passed by the Assembly in 2008. In the case of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, there is a tradition dating back to the Gold Rush days of people from both Southeast Alaska and the Yukon connecting for Independence Day – a tradition that the Sister Cities Committee is helping to preserve.
A Sister City is created when a community decides to form a relationship with a community within another nation to learn more about each other and develop meaningful and lasting global friendships, partnerships, and connections. The relationship becomes official with the signing of a formal agreement by the top elected officials of both jurisdictions.
Juneau has three active Sister City relationships: Whitehorse, Canada, established in 1989; Vladivostok, Russia, established in 1991; and Kalibo, Philippines, established in 2013. Juneau and Whitehorse have had close cultural, economic, and communication ties for many years and share similarities due to being two capitals of the far northwest region of the North America. A relationship was formed with Vladivostok as other cultural exchanges between Alaska and remote eastern Russia were taking place, a result of the “ice curtain” between the two places thawing post-Cold War. Alaska Airlines even had regular weekly flights to the Russian Far East, including Vladivostok, making visits easier. A relationship with Kalibo – which is the capital city of the Aklan Province in the Philippines – was established because there are close to a thousand people originally from the Aklan who call Juneau home.
Sister City partnerships stimulate opportunities for members of both communities to engage and integrate with another culture. For example, The Alaska String Band from Juneau was invited by the U.S. Consulate General in Vladivostok to perform overseas at an American Independence Day celebration in Vladivostok this past July. These kinds of events further global perspective and increase cross-cultural exchange, resulting in improved quality of life for citizens of both communities. The invitation originally stemmed from the Consulate General’s visit to Juneau last December.
In addition, these global relationships help pave the path for deeper economic ties. In July, Juneau Economic Development Council (JEDC) Executive Director Brian Holst attended a partnership conference in Anchorage to bolster international trade relationships between Alaska and the Russian Far East, including Juneau and Vladivostok.
Most recently, a member of Juneau’s Sister Cities Committee visited Whitehorse with JEDC to strengthen connections between Whitehorse and Juneau. Possible tourism and economic exchanges being discussed include Sister City tennis tournaments, the Arctic Winter Games and other sporting events, the Princess Sophia commemoration events, Juneau Public Market, Baconfest, Capital Brewfest, Alaska Robotics Mini-Con, JEDC’s Innovation Summit, and the Juneau Maritime Festival. Many more opportunities are still in the works and are continuously being discovered. Established links to Juneau’s Sister City communities keep the dialogue open.