By Doris Bill
I am writing in response to the political cartoon published by the Yukon News in the Wednesday, Sept. 3 edition which included a cartoon of my likeness as chief of Kwanlin Dun First Nation, in addition to the article in the News’ Aug. 29 edition regarding the waterfront.
The cartoon suggests that Kwanlin Dun, other governments and law enforcement are doing nothing on waterfront issues aside from blaming each other.
The parties indicated in the cartoon suggests that the issues along the waterfront involve Kwanlin Dun people exclusively, however issues of homelessness, addiction and mental illness affect people from all backgrounds.
The Aug. 29 article is conspicuously absent of any comment by either Whitehorse-area First Nation. Kwanlin Dun was not contacted for comment on the article, nor has Kwanlin Dun ever been approached by the Yukon News to comment specifically on issues concerning the waterfront.
Although the cartoon suggests inaction on part of our government, our First Nation continues to demonstrate initiative and leadership through our Jackson Lake land-based healing program, which is widely acknowledged and supported for its programming that assists Yukoners who are struggling with addictions.
We are also taking steps to identify and address the issue of homelessness among our people. And, through our own programming, dedicated counselling and mental health staff in addition to our community partnerships, Kwanlin Dun is committed to and consistently involved in initiatives that promote raising awareness about the breadth and impact of mental illness.
In the Aug. 29 article, the need for aftercare services following detox programming were indicated as “needed or missing” by others quoted in the article.
Had Kwanlin Dun been approached for comment on this article, we would have informed the reporter that a three-year funding deal with the federal government has provided for the hiring of a dedicated team of staff to provide pre-program and aftercare services.
This funding deal with the federal government and availability of aftercare services were announced through a media release in connection to a conference Kwanlin Dun hosted in March around sharing best practices in land-based healing programming that drew attendance from across the nation.
Also announced at that time was a two-year funding arrangement with Yukon government that enables the program to offer additional intakes, and in effect, help even more Yukoners struggling with addictions. That’s correct; the Jackson Lake land-based healing program operated by Kwanlin Dun is open to all Yukoners struggling with addictions because Kwanlin Dun and its government partners recognize that issues of addiction and surrounding issues affect people from all backgrounds.
Kwanlin Dun and Yukon government also hosted a media event in May to sign the two-year funding agreement that was hosted at the Jackson Lake healing camp. The event was attended by all local media outlets and included the viewing of a video with background about the program along with a site tour and presentations by program staff.
The video about the Jackson Lake program is published on Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s YouTube channel and was produced last February; it’s clear from the video, that the response and resulting funding partnerships with both the federal and Yukon governments was timely and relevant to the need and was in place in time to support the program during its summer operating months.
It’s frustrating that although Kwanlin Dun has made a considerable effort to share information about its initiatives and programming that institutions like the Yukon News continue to attempt to portray Kwanlin Dun as neglecting to act in any capacity on said issues.
While not directly related to issues along the waterfront, over the summer, I did issue a comment in relation to the public apology issued by Sirius Security regarding its personnel targeting aboriginal people downtown.
In that statement, beyond commenting specifically to the apology, I made a point of commenting on the larger issues affecting not only the waterfront, but the downtown core including businesses that operate in the area.
Within the limited opportunity that this letter provides, I have demonstrated numerous ways that our First Nation has committed over the long term to programming and initiatives to impact these serious issues.
I’ll close with my previous comments and notably, the only comments provided “on record” to Yukon News on this issue, which to me, are a far cry from “passing the buck.”
I had stated that these problems are not “just a First Nation issue, but a community issue” and that “while our council supports any citizens who experience racial discrimination, our council also understands the challenge that the businesses in the area are facing concerning activity in the downtown area. Our council believes that a coordinated approach and partnership on part of governments, the business community, concerned citizens and law enforcement officials is needed to address these larger issues.”
Doris Bill is chief of the Yukon First Nation.
The Yukon News agrees with Bill on the importance of the Jackson Lake Healing Centre. That’s why we’ve given that project considerable past coverage.
The Kwanlin Dun First Nation wasn’t contacted for our waterfront story because the issues described affect more people than the First Nation’s citizens.
It should also be noted that this newspaper gives Wyatt a long leash to draw cartoons as he chooses. He enjoys the same leeway as a columnist, and his slant is not dictated by the editor.