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Consultation conflict continues

Once again, the Yukon Party has broken its promise to consult with First Nations, says Ta’an Kwach’an Chief Ruth Massie.

Once again, the Yukon Party has broken its promise to consult with First Nations, says Ta’an Kwach’an Chief Ruth Massie.

Frustrated by lack of consultation during the Child and Family Services Act review, Yukon First Nations hoped to have more of a say in developing the Child and Youth Advocate Act.

The Yukon is one of the last jurisdictions in Canada without a children’s advocate. The new act should give young people a voice and ensure the child welfare system has some oversight and accountability.

“This involves children and their rights, so we’re very concerned,” said Massie.

The Yukon government scheduled two meetings, November 28 and December 4, to go over the policy discussion paper for the Child and Youth Advocate Act with Yukon First Nations. 

And on December 4, representatives of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council, Kwanlin Dun First Nation, Selkirk First Nation, Champagne/Aishihik First Nation, Liard First Nation and Kaska Tribal Council raised serious concerns with the process used by government to vet the policy discussion paper.

“The timelines proposed by the Yukon government are too rigid and cannot be justified,” wrote Massie in a December 15 letter to Social Services Minister Glenn Hart.

The consultation process ended Friday.

“But how can the public be expected to provide a thorough and complete response in this timeframe?”

Government is “tabling documents at the 11th hour, at Christmas time, hoping that Yukon First Nations are too busy to notice their tactics,” wrote lawyer Corinne McKay in an e-mail.

“We have noticed and are very concerned.”

It is puzzling the government deems it necessary to push this legislation forward in such a reckless manner, wrote Massie.

“We agree that the development of the Child and Youth Advocate Act must be carried out in a timely manner but, more importantly, it must be done right.”

First Nations and government were supposed to create a discussion paper together, said Massie.

“We’d agreed to a collaborative and transparent process.”

But when the government met with First Nations, it already had the discussion paper in hand.

“The paper says, ‘This is the process in which we’re going to handle it — you stand back and watch it happen,’ and that’s not adequate,” said Massie.

“We raised the point that the Yukon government has been working on this for at least six months and it was not until November that First Nations were advised by the minister that the Child and Youth Advocate Act policy paper had been developed and would be tabled in the Spring 2009,” wrote McKay.

“We reminded Yukon government that this process reminded us of what we went through with the Family and Children’s Services Act.”

“It’s like, ‘Here’s what we can do for you’ — instead of sitting down and having dialogue and being transparent about it, and having a true face-to-face meeting, discussing the issues at hand,” said Massie.

“They keep saying they want to collaborate with First Nations. But how do you collaborate if you keep people on the other side of the door all the time?

“They keep coming back to us and saying this is what is best for you — well, they don’t live our lives.”

Three quarters of the children in care are First Nations, said Massie.

“So it only makes sense that we’re involved with the whole process.”

“We told Yukon government we were not interested in a courtesy consultation,” wrote McKay.

“We’re responsible for our citizens,” said Massie.

“But this is arm’s-length involvement, we’re following another government’s policies and procedures.”

It was the same with children’s act, she said.

“We worked two and a half years with them on that, and it was status quo when it went to the legislation.

“All of our recommendations were basically ignored.

“And it’s Yukon controlled — there is no advocacy on behalf of First Nations. Even if you want, as a self-governing First Nation, to be involved, you can’t.”

The Ta’an and the Carcross/Tagish First Nation are developing their own child and family welfare legislation.

“Because if the current legislation does not work for us, we need something that is going to work in the best interest of the children,” said Massie.

“They need to accommodate us, and they haven’t — not at all.”

Hart did not return calls by press time.

Contact Genesee Keevil at