Left to right are Mayor Laura Cabott of Whitehorse; Grand Chief Peter Johnson of the Council of Yukon First Nations; Joanne Vanderheyden, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; and Gord Curran, the outgoing president of AYC. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

Left to right are Mayor Laura Cabott of Whitehorse; Grand Chief Peter Johnson of the Council of Yukon First Nations; Joanne Vanderheyden, president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities; and Gord Curran, the outgoing president of AYC. (Lawrie Crawford/Yukon News)

AYC wants municipal terms extended to four years, elects new president

Community differences and reconciliation, top of mind for new AYC president

The Association of Yukon Communities (AYC) elected a new executive and passed a number of resolutions during a Whitehorse summit on May 13 and 14.

It was the first in-person AYC gathering in over two years, and in some ways, it looked like the pandemic had never happened. The Mount McIntyre Recreation Centre was packed and so was the agenda. Usually, the meeting takes place over two-and-a-half days, but Gord Curran, outgoing president of AYC, said that a bit of lingering uncertainty led to the slightly more compacted event.

Mayors, council members, chief executive officers, members of cabinet and the legislative assembly and officials from all ranks of YG’s community services branch attended. The president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities came with two staff members who delved into conversations about issues facing Yukon’s communities. Representatives from the four unincorporated communities who share associate member status were also there. At times, the sound decibel levels were high.

The speakers

Curran presented three speakers for opening remarks – Mayor Laura Cabott of Whitehorse, Minister Richard Mostyn of Community Services and the President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), Joanne Vanderheyden.

For Cabott and Mostyn, the collapse of the clay cliffs over Robert Service Way loomed large, with their remarks including frequent references to climate change and the climate change emergency. Housing and ­­COVID-19 were not forgotten either, though the on-going substance use emergency was not mentioned.

Joanne Vanderheyden of the Canadian federation said that municipalities have a huge role in adaptation and mitigation efforts, and that recovery needs flexibility that is rooted in communities.

The workshops

Speakers were followed by sessions on recreation, tourism, policy making and a two-hour session on reconciliation and indigenization. The reconciliation session led to lively conversations and left participants wanting to keep the dialogue going.

Tosh Southwick and Davida Wood of IRP Consulting led the group through a series of slides and exercises that fueled critical assessments of colonial perspectives and systemic racism in government structures. It asked hard questions and inspired “ah-ha” moments.

They gave examples of how communities can make space for Indigenous voices and open themselves to Indigenous worldviews and culture. It is not enough to place indigenous art on a wall or make a land acknowledgement.

Curran said that a few years ago, a session like that could not have happened, but that now, post-Covid, it is possible.

He said “reconsidering reconciliation and indigenization of partnerships with our First Nations is an important part of our strategic plan. We found that during the pandemic, [that it] caused us to work closer with our Indigenous partners, especially in our small communities.

“So how can we continue to make that work?” he asked the crowd.

Peter Johnson, Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, presented his perspective on the collaborative approach between the Teslin Tlingit Council and the Village of Teslin. He said that around 2006, “We got tired of fighting and started working together. Now years later, we are reaping the benefits”

The business

Three resolutions were passed on the meeting’s final day:

that the term for municipal councils be increased from three years to four;

that the discontinuation of [electrical] demand charges take effect, and municipalities be charged only an actual utility rate; and

that the Government of Yukon consult with municipalities to determine an appropriate financial relief program offsetting increased costs and lost revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A new executive committee was also elected.

Ted Laking, councillor of the City of Whitehorse, was elected President.

Lauren Hanchar, councillor for the Town of Watson Lake, was elected 1st Vice President.

Doris Hansen, councillor of the Village of Carmacks, was elected 2nd Vice President.

Gord Curran, mayor for the Village of Teslin, became the Past President.

The new president

Ted Laking, currently a Whitehorse city councillor, spoke with the News on May 15. He plans to travel throughout the Yukon. He committed to attending one council meeting in each municipality per year.

“I think it’s just so essential to be there on the ground, to hear directly from the people who are trying to solve the challenges in each community,” he said.

“I think you need to be on the ground, you need to hear the nuances that go into the language and how people speak about the issues, and even go and see firsthand some of the issues that exist.”

He is pleased that Gord Curran is staying on the executive committee and committed to carrying on his legacy. Laking clearly recognized that Curran had carried the organization through probably the most difficult time in the history of the organization.

Based on the policy discussions between councillors and mayors, Laking observed that the sources of similar issues are singular to each place.

He said if you actually want to start succeeding and addressing some of these structural issues, finding local solutions to local problems is critical.

It is a task he is looking forward to, and now has the position to tackle it.

Contact Lawrie Crawford at lawrie.crawford@yukon-news.com