CYFN takes control of secretariat

The director of the Council of Yukon First Nations' self-government secretariat has resigned. Today is Pauline Frost's last day.

The director of the Council of Yukon First Nations’ self-government secretariat has resigned.

Today is Pauline Frost’s last day.

Her departure comes exactly one month after the Council of Yukon First Nations passed a resolution exerting control over the secretariat, which used to be arm’s length from the council.

“I was asked to do a specific task with the self-government secretariat when I was hired two-and-a-half years ago,” said Frost. “It was to design a department and agency that was a professional, upstanding organization that would continue to meet and address the needs of Yukon First Nations.”

Put simply, the secretariat is a resource centre.

It gathers information, legislation and policy from the self-governing First Nations and puts it in an organized, central place, making it accessible to all First Nations.

Many regard this as one of the council’s essential services.

The Council of Yukon First Nations was established as a brotherhood, to negotiate and sign land claims across the territory.

But once those claims were signed, the organization lost its focus.

To date, there is a debate among First Nation governments on what the role of the council should be: a political organization or a simple, central information resource.

Some aboriginal governments, including the Vuntut Gwitch’in First Nation have pulled their support from the council because they disagreed with its direction.

However, the secretariat still works with all First Nations, not just council members.

But the recently passed resolution gives the council’s grand chief and executive director full administrative oversight of the secretariat.

First Nations who are not members will no longer have a say in the secretariat’s affairs. They have observer status, but cannot vote, said Grand Chief Ruth Massie.

This seems like a conflict for the secretariat, as it works with information owned by the First Nations – members and non-members alike.

“The resolution speaks for itself,” said Frost. “But the secretariat was never intended to be a political organization.”

However, the first clause in the resolution confirms, “the SGS is a department of the CYFN and is administered in accordance with the policies and procedures of the CYFN.”

And the council is a political entity, said Massie.

“There was a breakdown in communication,” she said. “The secretariat has always been a part of CYFN. It is not a separate entity. But because that department works with the self-governing First Nations, they thought their reporting process was to the self-governing First Nations and not here. They would report to leadership, but take direction from the government bureaucrats.”

The council recognized the problem through its reorganization process, said Massie.

Reforming the floundering council has been on the list of things to do for almost every grand chief since final agreements were signed.

“Political decisions may change but the mandate of the self-government secretariat will remain the same,” Frost said on Wednesday, at the organization’s third annual First Nation governance conference.

Asked why she’s resigning, Frost simply said it was time to move on.

A replacement has not yet been named.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com