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‘I’m gonna fulfill my term’: CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston

Peter Johnston provides an update on his future as grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations
Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston has clarified a comment he made about leaving leadership during a press conference at the legislative building’s media room on Aug. 23. (Dana Hatherly/Yukon News)

Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN) Grand Chief Peter Johnston has offered some clarity on his future with the organization, telling the News he will stay on until the end of his third term.

“I am not leaving [the position]. I’m gonna fulfill my term. I’m just not seeking re-election,” Johnston said.

“So, let’s be clear that I am not seeking re-election on my fourth term. I don’t need to do four terms.”

The clarification comes following comments he made on Aug. 23 during the press conference for the Yukon government’s substance use health emergency strategy. In response to a question from the News on government spending, Johnston stated, “I’ve been in this political business for 22 years in my life, and I’m getting tired of just the excuses, the runarounds […] I’m leaving leadership because I need to do something different.”

Johnston first took the reins of the CYFN in 2016 after he was the only candidate to put his name forward for the role of grand chief. He was acclaimed twice more in 2019 and 2022. Grand chiefs of the council are chosen by election and serve three-year terms.

“Never in this world has a grand chief done three terms. Never. Let alone being acclaimed for three terms,” Johnston, a citizen and former chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council, said.

“Every other grand chief went through an election.”

During Johnston’s tenure as grand chief, the CYFN launched an anti-domestic violence initiative, which received more than $1 million in funding from the feds, and distributed thousands of dollars of infant supplies to Yukon communities. He highlights the transfer of responsibility for the Yukon Native Language Centre from the Yukon government to CYFN in 2018 and transforming the Child and Family Services Act among the accomplishments during his mandate.

When clarifying his previous comments, Johnston expressed frustration with the substance use health emergency and cabinet’s response to the situation. He also noted that he’s grown tired of his public-facing role with the CYFN and seeing himself in the media.

“It’s not about stepping down, it’s not about leaving, but [explicative], I’m tired […] Like what more do I need to do?” he said.

“I’m just done after this […] I want to do something different.”

Johnston’s third term will conclude in 2025.

— with files from Dana Hatherly

Contact Matthew Bossons at

Matthew Bossons

About the Author: Matthew Bossons

I grew up in a suburb of Vancouver and studied journalism there before moving to China in 2014 to work as a journalist and editor.
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