There has been an unmistakable change in attitude at the Council of Yukon First Nations in recent days.
We wholeheartedly applaud it.
The institution that represents 11 of the 14 First Nations in the territory is slowly opening its doors and lowering its guard.
Gone is the policy of isolation that seemed to wrap CYFN in an impenetrable layer of cotton and turn its chiefs and officials into members of a hermit kingdom. Arrived is a more dynamic, savvy organization that appears more comfortable to say what it thinks.
Mikhail Gorbachev, father of glasnost (that’s Russian for ‘openness’) would be proud.
During a recent news conference at CYFN, reporters got a taste of the new mood in action.
Grand chief Andy Carvill called the office from the Cordilleran Roundup in Vancouver and did something very unusual: he answered any and all questions.
At first, the assembled scribes were a tad reluctant to venture from the focus of the discussion — mining —to unrelated questions.
But then one brave reporter asked about CYFN’s ongoing friction with the Yukon government over its big game outfitter policy.
Carvill answered the query — announcing First Nations were talking with the government about the policy — and then the questions, and answers, kept on coming.
In about 30 minutes, issues that CYFN has not publicly addressed for ages suddenly had comment from the grand chief.
Carvill’s assistant even introduced herself after the meeting and offered her phone number for those needing additional information.
And just this week, reporters were invited to CYFN to speak with chiefs who were at the building to meet with federal Health minister Tony Clement.
Intent on making CYFN’s position clear, director of health partnerships Liz Walker approached reporters, unannounced, and delivered an interview so full of passion, clarity and openness that most reporters left speechless.
With self-government comes a responsibility to be open and responsive to the community.
In the last month, the Council of Yukon First Nations has provided information and background about the residential school settlement, the outfitter policy, federal health policies and athlete participation in the Canada Winter Games.
The Council of Yukon First Nations has, in a very short time, adopted a responsive public presence.
And the Yukon is a better place for it. (TQ)