Feds find interim funds for First Nations, pending deals

Ottawa is giving the first seven Yukon First Nations that signed land claim agreements a $9.2-million lifeline over the next two years.

Ottawa is giving the first seven Yukon First Nations that signed land claim agreements a $9.2-million lifeline over the next two years.

That cash follows a failure to renegotiate permanent funding.

The feds and the seven governments ran out of time re-negotiating their finance transfer agreements.

Ottawa uses the finance agreements to fund aboriginal government much like transfer payments to provinces or territories.

With the old deals set to expire at the end of March — and new ones still off the radar — Indian and Northern Affairs Minister Jim Prentice used his brief stopover in Whitehorse on Saturday to keep the governments in the black.

“We just didn’t get it negotiated in time,” said INAC intergovernmental affairs manager Dionne Savill.

“Normally these things (finance deals) last five years, and then you negotiate a new agreement,” she said. “This two years will allow us to draft a well-created protocol and get it right.”

Both Ottawa and Yukon First Nations have committed to examining ways to improve the deals, said Savill.

“We’re just taking a look at it to make sure it adequately provides First Nations with what they need to run their governments, and that may or may not mean a change,” she said.

A finalized finance deal should be in place by April 2007, said Savill.

First Nations will decide among themselves how to divide the interim money.

The four remaining Yukon First Nations that have signed land claims and self-government deals may also benefit from any future money pact.

Whenever changes are negotiated, they are usually applied to all aboriginal governments in the Yukon, said Savill.

“Everyone would benefit from the same negotiation,” she said.

Prentice’s meeting with Yukon First Nation chiefs wasn’t planned.

Instead, it was a happy coincidence that he was in Whitehorse for the closing ceremony of the Canada Winter Games.

“First Nation chiefs had been requesting to meet with him, so it was just a really good marriage,” said Savill.

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