Disgraced chief in Liard election race

Former Liard First Nation chief Daniel Morris pleaded guilty to assaulting his estranged wife in 2003 and owes his band roughly $250,000.

Former Liard First Nation chief Daniel Morris pleaded guilty to assaulting his estranged wife in 2003 and owes his band roughly $250,000.

Now he wants to be chief again. He’s a candidate in the First Nation’s current election.

Although others have expressed concern about Morris’ return to politics — including aboriginal women’s groups — at least two other candidates are reserved in their criticism of their former chief.

“It will be up to the people on voting day to choose who they’ll support,” said Liard McMillan, who is seeking re-election as chief.

It is up to the community to amend an election law allowing people to run in a  band election if they have not been convicted of a crime in the two years preceding an election, said McMillan.

He is willing to pose that question after the election, he said.

“Many people feel strongly about that and feel (candidates) shouldn’t be allowed to run unless they’re given a full pardon,” said McMillan.

Councillor David Dickson, another chief candidate, was reluctant to comment on Morris entering the race.

“I don’t want to compare anyone to anyone — that would be adversarial,” he said in an interview.

For several years, the RCMP has been investigating the financial dealings of the band under Morris. Currently, Indian and Northern Affairs Canada is funding a forensic audit.

Liard, located in the southeast corner of the territory, is one of three Yukon First Nations without a final agreement.

Both McMillan and Dickson are content to focus their campaigns on what they want to accomplish as chief.

After the tumultuous years following Morris’ fall from grace, McMillan focused on rebuilding the First Nation’s reputation, and sought outside help to investigate the band’s financial problems.

He wants to continue building on his accomplishments and is telling voters “now is not the time for change.”

Economic development and improving infrastructure is the focus, he said.

The First Nation just bought three hotels in Watson Lake.

More training opportunities through the band’s development corporation are needed, he said.

And a resource-sharing accord that Liard and other Kaska First Nations drafted this spring must be finalized, he said.

He cites the development of a cultural and meeting space at Two Mile Lake — there’s almost $750,000 set aside for project planning — as one accomplishment.

“There were huge commitments made and kept to better the Kaska Nation,” said McMillan.

“We’re working extremely hard to make things better — and they are. We’ll stay the course.”

Securing a deal under the Umbrella Final Agreement is not something that interests him or the First Nation, said McMillan.

“We’ve heard the message from our citizens that they don’t want anything to do with final agreements,” he said.

“Our people are more interested in retaining our traditional land through other means, like co-operative agreements with the territory.”

Liard’s citizens need more traditional culture than is currently offered, said Dickson.

The importance of the traditional values and way of life would influence his leadership philosophy.

“I like (McMillan), but his leadership style is different than mine,” he said. “I’m a traditional person and that’s what I bring forward.”

Dickson did not offer many details on what he wants to accomplish if elected, but said, while economic development has brought his people opportunity, there is another side of life people are forgetting.

“Economic development is for people, but we can’t forget our way of life,” he said. “What happens when the development stops? We need subsistence hunting.”

Projects like the Two Mile Lake building are positive steps to introducing more culture in the community, as is the band’s acquisition of a trapline to teach children that skill.

Alternatives are needed to keep his community healthy, he said.

“Our children are being led down an academic path and it’s not always the way to go.

“We need to lead them to hunting and trapping so if they don’t pass Grade 12, they can still lead a constructive Kaska life.”

A third candidate, Peter Stone, could not be reached for comment.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Patti Balsillie will be running for the mayor’s seat in Whitehorse in the Oct. 21 municipal election. (Submitted)
Balsillie aims to serve as city’s mayor

Says she has the time, skill set to serve in full-time role

Mayo-Tatchun MLA Don Hutton sits on the opposition side of the legislative assembly on March 8 after announcing his resignation from the Liberal party earlier that day. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Don Hutton resigns from Liberal caucus; endorses NDP leadership

Hutton said his concerns about alcohol abuse and addictions have gone unaddressed

Crystal Schick/Yukon News
Calvin Delwisch poses for a photo inside his DIY sauna at Marsh Lake on Feb. 18.
Yukoners turning up the heat with unique DIY sauna builds

Do-it-yourselfers say a sauna built with salvaged materials is a great winter project

d
Wyatt’s World

Wyatt’s World for March 5, 2021.

g
Yukonomist: School competition ramps up in the Yukon

It’s common to see an upstart automaker trying to grab share from… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine from Public Health Nurse Angie Bartelen at the Yukon Convention Centre Clinic in Whitehorse on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
State of emergency extended for another 90 days

“Now we’re in a situation where we see the finish line.”

The Yukon government says it is working towards finding a solution for Dawson area miners who may be impacted by City of Dawson plans and regulations. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Miner expresses frustration over town plan

Designation of claims changed to future planning

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been postponed indefinitely. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
2022 Arctic Winter Games postponed indefinitely

Wood Buffalo, Alta., Host Society committed to rescheduling at a later date

Housing construction continues in the Whistle Bend subdivision in Whitehorse on Oct. 29, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Bureau of Statistics reports rising rents for Yukoners, falling revenues for businesses

The bureau has published several reports on the rental market and businesses affected by COVID-19

Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14, 2019. Johnston and Highways and Public Works Minister Richard Mostyn announced changes to the implementation of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy on March 3. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Third phase added to procurement policy implementation

Additional time added to prep for two provisions

Crews work to clear the South Klondike Highway after an avalanche earlier this week. (Submitted)
South Klondike Highway remains closed due to avalanches

Yukon Avalanche Association recommending backcountry recreators remain vigilant

RCMP Online Crime Reporting website in Whitehorse on March 5. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Whitehorse RCMP launch online crime reporting

Both a website and Whitehorse RCMP app are now available

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is preparing for a pandemic-era election this October with a number of measures proposed to address COVID-19 restrictions. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City gets set for Oct. 21 municipal election

Elections procedures bylaw comes forward

Most Read