Ottawa continues to turn down the Carcross/Tagish First Nation’s calls to negotiate a financial transfer agreement.
With concerns that it will be broke by the fall, the self-governing Tlingit group looked to its citizenry for help.
Luckily, Warren Kinsella’s daughter is a First Nation member.
“She has a copy of the self-governance treaty hanging on her bedroom wall,” the pundit and former Chretien spindoctor said in an email to the News on Tuesday.
Kinsella has a history of battling Conservatives. And along with being a staunch Liberal, he also co-founded the Daisy Consulting Group, which “has a lot of involvement with aboriginal files, right across the country,” said Kinsella.
“Since my daughter is a citizen of CTFN we felt we needed to help… to shine a light on what the Harper government is doing to this proud First Nation. We intend to help them tell their story to the whole country, and force the Conservative government back to the table. We’ll do whatever it takes.”
Talks between the First Nation and Ottawa came to a stalemate with Ottawa in May 2011. The First Nation’s last financial transfer ran out that March.
Carcross/Tagish turned down an offer on the table for more money.
There was no negotiation, said Danny Cresswell, the newly elected chief of the Tlingit group.
After refusing the take-it-or-leave-it offer, Cresswell negotiated an extension of their old arrangement. That ends on Sept. 30. Ottawa now says it won’t offer another extension, nor will it negotiate, said Cresswell on Tuesday.
Meetings scheduled with John Duncan, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, were cancelled only days before they were supposed to take place in May, he said.
Requests to meet with other ministers were refused.
The financial transfer makes up most of the First Nation’s budget. Carcross/Tagish has more than 500 members.
“We are a publicly funded government like any of the provinces or territories,” said Cresswell. “I’d like to know what other provinces are totally self-sufficient. Look at the Yukon government’s transfer agreement.”
More money is needed to aid the First Nation’s efforts to take on programs and services, like implementing its own Family Act to take over child welfare services from the territory, said Cresswell.
“More children are in care now than went through residential school,” he said. “We want to stop that. We want to be fully liable for our children. But we have a letter from the minister saying he won’t fund it. They tell us that the funding’s in the region. But its the federal government that has the obligation, not the territorial government.”
Cresswell said he’d be more willing to sign the agreement if it was at least comparable with the other 10 self-governing First Nations in the territory.
While they are still grossly underfunded, the four First Nations that first signed agreements have had their transfers grow for six years longer than Carcross/Tagish, said Cresswell. That’s created a funding difference of about $1.6 million, he said.
But in the end, the decision whether to accept Ottawa’s offer isn’t Cresswell’s. The First Nation operates by consensus. After a two-day meeting complete with lawyers and negotiators earlier this year, it was the citizenry that decided against signing.
But there will be another assembly in September, said Cresswell.
If they still reject the offer, the First Nation’s self-governing powers won’t mean much, said Cresswell.
Meanwhile, accepting the offer would allow Ottawa to break its own constitution and deny future generations of everything the elders worked so hard for those agreements to ensure, he said.
Kinsella’s company will be working for the Yukon Tlingit group “at a greatly reduced rate,” he said. But only time will tell whether having a longtime Liberal on their side will actually help the Carcross/Tagish.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at