I welcome the opportunity to write to Liard First Nation citizens and all Yukoners regarding the Liard First Nation Development Corporation and housing in Watson Lake.
The corporation cares about affordable-housing needs for Liard First Nation citizens. In fact, one goal of the corporation board (which is made up of First Nation community members) was to purchase the land and buildings at the old Watson Lake Hotel site for this very purpose.
In a separate business transaction, the Liard First Nation purchased a real-estate parcel beside the old Watson Lake Hotel to convert to affordable housing for First Nation citizens, and that plan remains in effect.
However, soon after the development corporation bought the other two operating hotels (Belvedere and Gateway) these real-estate assets were all devastated by a worldwide recession.
Like many businesses, plans changed to ensure long-term survival of the assets.
We have been forced to focus more on our hotels and the housing plans have taken longer to materialize than originally forecast. This fact is no big revelation in our community, and was discussed extensively at the Liard First Nation General Assembly in the summer.
The corporation invested in the only apartment building in Watson Lake the year previous, as evidence of our ongoing balanced approach to achieving long-term economic security and to care for all citizens in Watson Lake by providing affordable-housing options.
This is a vision we undertook with our citizens four short years ago to try to accommodate our people in these areas, for now and the long term.
As for the operating hotels and all future business dealings, the corporation invests in assets for the long-term future of our people (i.e. Air North and Yukon Inn). We want to invest the money made by these business arrangements for future housing, health, education and other services for our people.
As Kaska, we wish to help ourselves become more self-sufficient. We are trying to teach ourselves “how to fish.” No matter what money we receive as contributions from government, it is very small compared to the needs of our communities.
We have to invest and grow what we do receive to overcome the fiscal challenges to build our future and provide for the services previously mentioned. We feel this is the only way to meet the pressures of the 21st century and lose the public perception of First Nations being dependent upon the government.
The recent apology from the prime minister of Canada to First Nation people included discussion about more First Nation activity in the economy and working together to become more self-sufficient, and that’s exactly what we are doing.
As is normal, our commercial transactions will not have all details disclosed to the general public. What we will say is that a smaller portion of the Northern Housing Trust monies were used to purchase the real estate that includes the old Watson Lake Hotel and adjacent blocks of land, for the purpose of converting part of it to housing for LFN citizens. This does not include the Belvedere and Gateway hotels.
There is a mortgage on these operating hotel assets.Ã‚Â The development corporation was to implement a work plan that included terms of reference for the ongoing design, operation and maintenance of low-income housing for singles and assisted-living citizens.
That remains an objective, but has been delayed for the time being due to the recession pressures that we faced and mentioned above.
The development corporation will continue to acquire assets and build our own source revenues from business that, in the future, can be invested in housing and other needs for our people.
Alex Morrison, general manager Liard First Nation Development Corp.