CYFN restructuring slow going

Despite what television tells you, complete makeovers aren’t quick. Or easy. The Council of Yukon First Nations is realizing this as it…

Despite what television tells you, complete makeovers aren’t quick. Or easy.

The Council of Yukon First Nations is realizing this as it trudges through a debate about its future.

Yukon First Nations heard about the restructuring’s successes and problems during a recent leadership council meeting.

The restructuring process is heading in the right direction, said Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Darren Taylor.

But the discussion is just beginning, he added.

He would like to see the Council of Yukon First Nations strengthen its political and lobbying efforts rather than offering programs.

“We don’t want to create more bureaucracy,” he said.

“We should leave the program delivery to individual First Nations, unless a community decides to devolve powers to CYFN.”

Each First Nation has different issues of capacity — human or financial resources — so generic policies might not work, he added.

Each First Nation is completing self-assessment surveys to figure out how the council, in its different roles, could help communities.

Nine of 17 First Nations, 15 of which are CYFN members, have completed the surveys.

“What does one envision as CYFN’s future role?” asks one question.

Answers range from A: other, to F: the organization implodes and dies.

The consultations will culminate in a special leadership retreat.

Each of the council’s 15 members have very different needs, say officials.

But some chiefs wonder how community-focused a new council should be.

“None of this is simple, but be very careful about focusing too much on the needs of communities,” said Nihtat Gwitchin Council Chief Richard Nerysoo.

Consolidating too much power in the council could hinder a First Nation’s ability to tailor programs and services to community needs, he said.

“You’re taking away the responsibility from communities,” he added.

The council should focus on land claims issues, economic development and human resource development for individual communities, said Nerysoo.

Restructuring is the No. 1 priority, according to past statements by grand chief Andy Carvill.

Chiefs received an update on restructuring of the $8.9-million organization.

If the council disbands, that money would go back to Ottawa for distribution among other First Nations.

That money could go to good use here, according to the council.

However, a unified, credible and competent organization is needed to further the interests of Yukon First Nations, chiefs were told.

Most of the debate took place behind closed doors, but a presentation and brief comments from several chiefs were not in camera.

The council could focus more on self-government implementation issues and studying proposed legislation.

Improving accountability and making the organization results-oriented is also a priority for the restructuring team.

As well, there should be more employee-performance evaluations and mentorship training.

This could facilitate the movement of CYFN officials to individual First Nation administrations, seeding expertise around the territory.

At an annual general assembly in Moosehide in the summer, leaders resolved to allow Carvill to begin researching the restructuring.

Officials hoped to have the evaluation completed by this month, so results could be discussed at a spring meeting, but delays have pushed back the deadline.

And there’s some confusion about how the evaluation is structured.

The roles of the political and administrative wings handling the council’s restructuring need to be clarified, said Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Joe Linklater.

“There needs to be a clear distinction between the leadership at this table and the administration, and we can’t think of them as together,” he said.