The Yukon’s premier is asking the territorial government, the affected First Nation and the Village of Mayo to coordinate their collective efforts in the aftermath of recent violence and ongoing substance use in the community of Mayo.
Premier Ranj Pillai wrote letters dated March 23 to First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun (FNNND) Chief Simon Mervyn and Mayor Trevor Ellis. The letters outlined the Yukon government’s proposed actions “that are intended to start a conversation about charting a path forward and working together in a meaningful way to address the substance use emergency in Mayo.”
“We, as leaders in this territory, need to take bold steps together to address and overcome the overuse of substances and the many associated harms,” the premier told the First Nation and municipal government leaders.
In the letters, Pillai hopes the proposed actions demonstrate the Yukon government’s willingness to working with the First Nation and the village in a “meaningful and respectful way” to address the substance use health emergency in Mayo.
“I acknowledge that this will be an on-going discussion and that it will be important for our governments to create a plan that is flexible and adaptable while also identifying appropriate leads, contact information, timelines and expected outcomes to guide the work,” he wrote.
“We are available and ready to meet to continue these discussions and would be happy to travel to Mayo, if invited and appropriate, to tackle this important work on the ground.”
The Yukon government declared a territory-wide substance use health emergency in January 2022.
On March 14, FNNND declared its own state of emergency in the days after two Whitehorse men were killed in the community of Mayo. The declaration states the First Nation is dealing with “an opioid emergency that is terrorizing the public in Mayo” with violence, crime, overdoses and death.
It contains a proposed action plan that could see more police within FNNND territory, a requirement for non-FNNND citizens (with some exceptions) to register before entering FNNND settlement land and vacate between the hours of 8 p.m. and 7 a.m., the eviction of tenants in FNNND housing units who are “engaged in illegal activities or supporting such activities or persons involved in opioid distribution” and the establishment of check stops on all roads entering Mayo or C-6 subdivision “to disrupt, interrupt and stop opioid distribution.”
A town hall was held in the community of Mayo on March 20.
In the letter, Pillai indicated the response the territorial, First Nation and village governments will build together will provide an example for other Yukon communities that are dealing with similar struggles.
The Yukon government’s proposed short-term actions include mental wellness and substance use counsellors on the ground, with more to be made available upon request; jointly determining suitable and safe housing and eviction procedures; and discussing a community safety planning project.
Actions proposed for the medium term include developing a community wellness plan involving the First Nation, village and RCMP; Yukon government assistance in drafting a plan and procedures for potential lockdown scenarios; facilitating restorative justice processes; working on policing priorities through a letter of expectation and jointly developing a plan with the Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods unit. The unit can provide support by investigating complaints related to drug dealing, illegal possession and storage of prohibited, restricted or stolen guns, organized crime and more, according to the premier.
As for the long term, proposed actions include implementing and sustaining the prevention, treatment, harm reduction and community safety actions identified in the community wellness plan; exploring actions under the Community Tripartite Agreement to bolster community policing initiatives in support of FNNND, in collaboration with the RCMP and Public Safety Canada and exploring aftercare programs to support FNNND. The Yukon government is also willing to engage in administrative of justice agreement and interim justice provision negotiations.
Pillai informed the Yukon Legislative Assembly about the government’s proposed actions in the letters during a ministerial statement on March 23.
In response, Geraldine Van Bibber, Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek North, drew attention to former Liberal MLA Don Hutton who resigned from caucus in spring 2021 after his pleas to deal with alcohol abuse and addiction were ignored by the party leadership. Hutton sat as an independent for the remainder of his term, did not run again and endorsed Yukon NDP Leader Kate White for premier.
“We’ve watched the Yukon Party and now the Liberal government fail Yukoners once again. The rural communities and First Nations children in those rural communities continue to suffer under this Liberal government,” Hutton said in a video posted to Facebook by the Yukon NDP on April 7, 2021.
“For four years, they failed me, and they failed the people of Mayo-Tatchun.”
In November 2021, following a series of tragedies, the Yukon legislature received a petition asking that a state of emergency be declared to deal with substance use in Mayo.
Yukon NDP Leader Kate White reminded reporters the issues the community of Mayo is facing aren’t new and this isn’t the first time they have asked for help.
“We just really expect at this point in time that the Yukon government will do what’s asked of them,” she said.
“it’s going to be like up to the community to say whether it was enough or not.”
Yukon Party Leader Currie Dixon said the Official Opposition will hold governing Liberals to account on its talk of action.
“Our hearts go out to the community, and we want to see action taken,” he said.
“What we heard from the premier today is like action will be taken.”
— With files from Haley Ritchie and Lawrie Crawford
Contact Dana Hatherly at email@example.com