In less than a week, the Carcross/Tagish First Nation could lose more than half of its budget.
The southern Yukon Tlingit group has asked Ottawa for another six-month extension on its old funding arrangement. Without any funding transfer in place, the First Nation’s self-government will be rendered essentially powerless.
Like most Yukon First Nation governments, Carcross/Tagish is scheduled to renegotiate its funding arrangement every five years.
In May 2011, the Tlingit group reached a stalemate with federal negotiators.
The First Nation refused Canada’s offer on the principle that it was “take-it-or-leave-it,” despite the aboriginal government’s constitutional right to negotiate, said Chief Danny Cresswell. Even though the offer was for more than the First Nation’s current funding, it is not in proportion to other Yukon First Nation agreements, said Cresswell. The offer also didn’t consider that the First Nation wants to create and provide its own programs and services, like school curriculum and adoption, to its own citizens, he said.
The First Nation has been trying to get Ottawa back to the table to negotiate a new financial transfer agreement for more than a year.
Cresswell was able to get a six-month extension on the last funding agreement, but that ends Oct. 1.
The issue came up in Parliament this week.
According to a letter from the First Nation to the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, Parliamentary Secretary Greg Rickford responded to questions from the Liberal critic, saying the government “remains ready and willing to work with the First Nation toward a renewed agreement.”
But Carcross/Tagish has not received any response to numerous letters, including the one handed directly to Minister John Duncan while he attended a Conservative barbecue at the Caribou Crossing Heritage Centre in the First Nation’s traditional territory during the Prime Minister’s Northern Tour on Aug. 20, the letter says.
After the barbecue, Cresswell told a gathering of peaceful protestors that the minister agreed to speak with the First Nation that Friday, Aug. 24.
On Thursday, Aug. 23 the minister’s Press Secretary Jan O’Driscoll told the News that no meeting was planned for Friday but that the northern policy advisor would be contacting the First Nation early the following week.
No one ever called, the First Nation confirmed.
And no response has been given regarding Cresswell’s request for another six-month extension.
“Without political intervention, funding will stop in a matter of days,” Cresswell was quoted in a Sept. 21 press release. “This will be devastating to our people and have grave consequences. The federal government is threatening to unilaterally defund a self-governing First Nation.”