The Council of Yukon First Nations wants to increase its influence in territorial politics by increasing advocacy work on social justice issues, said Grand Chief Andy Carvill.
“Sometimes I feel we spend too much time talking about technical processes and not enough talking about the fundamental issues confronting our citizens,” Carvill told delegates at the CYFN General Assembly Tuesday morning.
“The grassroots tell me they need someone to speak for them about poverty, about addictions, about the exploitation of our children, about abused or missing women.”
The CYFN is at a crossroads now that First Nations are focusing on land agreement implementation, said Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Joe Linklater in an interview with the News.
“We’ve gone beyond treaty negotiations and we’re now in the implementation of self-governments and CYFN needs to adapt to that,” said Linklater.
“It’s still very much a relevant organization. We just need to become better at what we do.”
Delegates are debating the restructuring of CYFN at the organization’s general assembly in Moosehide this week. The debate is taking place behind closed doors and restructuring options have not been released.
A new mandate focusing on public policy advocacy could maximize political influence for CYFN, said Linklater.
“I think the Yukon and federal governments will be looking for one place they can go to speak with all First Nations,” he said.
“CYFN will be that place. The more effective CYFN becomes, the more First Nations people will benefit.”
Reorganizing the role of the 11 First Nation chiefs in CYFN would work towards that goal, added Linklater.
“We’re trying to separate the political job from the administrative jobs,” he said. “We’re trying to simplify the chiefs’ roles in CYFN so they aren’t making financial decisions when that’s not their role as politicians.
“Their jobs are looking at public policy issues, and that’s what we want them to focus on.”
Carvill sees CYFN “developing and delivering more services and programs to Yukon First Nations citizens in the years ahead.”
The Assembly of First Nations, which works on poverty and residential school issues, among others, is an organization the Yukon First Nations can look to for how a restructured CYFN could operate, said Carvill.
“We have to start changing the way we do business,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of people on the streets, people with addictions. They need a strong advocate and I’d like to see a transition into being an advocate for these people as well as governments.”
No decision on restructuring will be made at the general assembly this week, said Carvill, adding it could take “another one or two meetings” before there is movement.
The slow turnover of CYFN leaders could be its strength when dealing with different levels of public governments in a new advocacy role, said Linklater.
“When you look at public governments, they have wholesale change, but within CYFN, the change happens gradually,” he said.
“You might have one or two new chiefs elected in a four-year period. In that way we have the potential to be much more consistent than a public government.”