Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston called Jan. 12 “a historic day.”
That afternoon, Premier Sandy Silver and Teslin Tlingit Council Naa Sháade Háni Richard Sidney signed an intergovernmental agreement outlining shared priorities between the Government of Yukon and Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC).
These include subdivision development, forestry, education, health and social services, fish and wildlife, economic development, infrastructure, tourism, and land exchanges.
Johnston said the governments have been not quite fighting, but challenged for many years when it comes to Yukon First Nations and the reality of self-government.
The agreement, the first thing Silver said was handed to him as premier after the 2016 election, will hopefully form the basis of a new relationship now and into the future, said Sidney.
In a post-signing interview, Sidney said there are many complicated issues that require dedication and commitment from both governments to ensure success. Education and infrastructure are big ones for TTC, he said.
Silver added that there are economic as well as cultural considerations for some of these issues.
“When we’re talking about education, there is a consideration about bricks and mortar, but there’s also a consideration about how we want to teach our children,” said Silver.
By drawing on traditional knowledge, he said Teslin students will be so unique, there will be no post-secondary institution in North America that wouldn’t be interested in having them.
Silver said the last thing he wants to see is this agreement sitting on a shelf, which is why timelines have been built into it. Within 45 days, people will be appointed to manage progress on each issue.
He didn’t give any concrete examples of what that progress would look like.
The agreement is similar to a joint priority action plan that the Yukon government and the First Nations came up with in October 2017. That agreement was also aimed at identifying and working on common issues.
Silver said this agreement differs in that it responds specifically to the Teslin community, and what its priorities are.
“It speaks to the sophistication of the TTC and their willingness to work,” said Silver, who noted it could be a model for other communities.
“I think what we do is we follow the lead of the chiefs … we want to follow the lead of the communities themselves. There’s not a one-size fits all approach. It never works that way.”
The agreement can be read on the TTC website at www.ttc-teslin.com.
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