Ottawa has offered an olive branch to the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.
The two have been in a dispute over funding since negotiations came to a stalemate in 2011.
Like most self-governing Yukon First Nations, the Carcross/Tagish are scheduled to renegotiate their money transfer from Ottawa every five years.
That transfer makes up a huge portion of the First Nation’s budget, which helps provide services to approximately 500 citizens.
A six-month extension on the old transfer agreement ended today.
Yesterday, the First Nation accepted another three-month extension of the old arrangement, and an invitation for mediation with Ottawa.
The federal government gave its offer on Friday, Sept. 21.
“Any way to resolve this, we’re open to,” said Chief Danny Cresswell. “We’re trying to do whatever we can to resolve this and we haven’t had a meeting about it – that’s what we’ve been trying to do all summer, is have a meeting about it.”
Numerous letters, phone calls and face-to-face requests to meet about the issue have gone unanswered, ignored or set up, and then cancelled, Cresswell added.
The Carcross/Tagish government runs by consensus. A community assembly on Sunday, which yielded about 50 citizens, decided to accept Ottawa’s offer, he said.
The issue will now go to the dispute resolution board, which was established under the Umbrella Final Agreement.
“I don’t think it can get done in three months, but it’s a start,” said Cresswell.
If mediation through the board doesn’t work, the next step is either arbitration, or court, he added.
But the Tlingit leader is staying cautiously optimistic.
“It’s a step anyway. I just hope they’re using this step as a positive and not just a way to get a little more time so they can figure out how to defund us,” he said. “I still think they want us to accept the deal that’s on the table and we’re saying, ‘Well, we’ve got some problems with it.”
According to the First Nation, negotiations for a new funding arrangement broke up in the summer of 2011 because of three main reasons.
First, Canada wasn’t willing to negotiate anything; it was a “take-it-or-leave-it” offer, said Cresswell. The First Nation’s final agreement stipulates that the money transfers must be negotiated and even lists 11 different points to be discussed each time.
Second, the deal on the table isn’t comparable to those given to other Yukon First Nations, he said.
It doesn’t consider the fact that other First Nations in the territory were receiving money for a number of years before Carcross/Tagish signed their land claims, he said.
Finally, the deal doesn’t consider Carcross/Tagish’s plans to take on their own services like school curriculum and social services, he added.
The deal offered more money than the previous arrangement, said Cresswell.
No date has been set yet for when mediation will begin.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at firstname.lastname@example.org