Grand chief ‘optimistic’ about Yukon Forum under new Liberal government

Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston and Yukon Premier Sandy Silver have announced that a Yukon Forum between the new Liberal government and First Nation chiefs will take place Jan. 13 in Whitehorse.

Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston and Yukon Premier Sandy Silver have announced that a Yukon Forum between the new Liberal government and First Nation chiefs will take place Jan. 13 in Whitehorse.

The Yukon Forum will be the first for Johnston and Silver in their new roles. Johnston was acclaimed as grand chief last spring, while Silver was elected premier in November.

“The first forum will be based on building that relationship and setting the priorities going forward,” Johnston told the News. “We’re just going to set the tone differently, and set the bar high.”

The former Yukon Party government held the Yukon Forum just three times after its election in 2011, most recently in April 2016. The party was often accused of being tonedeaf to the needs of Yukon First Nations.

During the territorial election campaign, Silver promised to hold the forum up to four times annually. He says it will only take place fewer than four times in a year if the First Nations don’t have the time to meet.

Kwanlin Dun First Nation Chief Doris Bill said she’s pleased that Silver is keeping his election promise.

“I’d like to see more meaningful forums and see some work actually come out of it,” she said.

Bill said the forum in April felt like a photo op more than anything else.

“I was thinking to myself, ‘That was an entire day I could have been doing something else, and accomplished a lot more,’” she said. “And quite frankly, I think that’s the way a lot of people felt.”

There are a number of major files that the new Liberal government will need to address with Yukon First Nations.

Johnston said land-use planning is one major issue that needs to be resolved. Land-use planning in the territory is on hold while the Peel watershed case wends its way through the courts. The Supreme Court of Canada is now scheduled to hear the case in March. The Liberals have said they will implement the final recommended plan for the Peel, which would protect 80 per cent of the watershed, but they have not said how they will navigate the Supreme Court hearing.

Housing is another critical issue for Yukon First Nations, Johnston said. In October, the Ross River Dena Council appealed to all Yukon political parties for help with a housing crisis in the community.

Johnston said many First Nation citizens across the territory are living in substandard housing, and First Nations need more money to build up their housing stock.

Economic development, infrastructure and culturally appropriate education are all areas that need attention, he said.

The Yukon Forum, he said, is about “setting the tone for these relationships to happen.”

Bill said she’s focused on the implementation of the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and the need for modernized resource legislation.

But Johnston, Silver and Bill are keeping their expectations for this first forum in check.

“I think this forum is mainly to set our priorities for future forums,” Bill said.

Johnston said the forum will include some ceremony to honour the new relationship between First Nations and the Yukon government.

And Silver said he’s looking to establish new protocols for communication between governments.

“How do the ministers communicate to the chiefs? How do the chiefs communicate to the premier?” he said.

During the election campaign, Silver promised to meet with all 14 of Yukon’s First Nation chiefs during his first 30 days in office. Now that more than 30 days have elapsed, Silver says he’s met with all but two of the chiefs.

He has yet to meet with Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Bruce Charlie, but he said Charlie will be present at the forum. He has also not met with Ta’an Kwach’an Council Chief Kristina Kane, which he said is his fault.

“I feel we haven’t done a good enough job of reaching out to her and her administration,” he said. “That’s on me.”

He didn’t say whether Kane will attend the forum. “I hope so. I hope to see her there. All chiefs have been invited.”

Johnston said the forum will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre on Jan. 13.

“I’m very optimistic and feeling very good about it,” he said. “We should all be excited, because when we succeed as First Nations… everybody succeeds.”

Contact Maura Forrest at maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Then Old Crow MLA Darius Elias speak’s in the community centre in Old Crow in 2016. Elias died in Whitehorse on Feb. 17. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News file)
Condolences shared for former Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias

Elias is remembered as a proud parent, hockey fan and politican

Reita, Dudley and Rodney Morgan at their Whitehorse home in 2002. (P. Gowdie/Courtesy Yukon Hidden Histories Society)
Recognizing Black history in the Yukon

Yukon’s Hidden Histories Society is entering its twentieth year of researching Black… Continue reading

Dahria Beatty and her Canadian teammates are set to begin the FIS World Nordic Ski Championships this week. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Beatty, Team Canada set for FIS World Nordic Ski Championships

Yukon’s Dahria Beatty was one of 10 skiers named by Nordiq Canada… Continue reading

keith
Yukonomist: The changing Yukon debt landscape

Sometimes you hear people say that the Yukon is a great place… Continue reading

City council meeting in Whitehorse on Feb. 8. Whitehorse city council is concerned over infrastructure funding that has yet to be approved by the Yukon government. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

(Submitted)
History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

(File photo)
RCMP arrest Saskatchewan murder suspect

Yukon RCMP have arrested a man suspected of attempted murder from outside… Continue reading

A Faro volunteer fire department truck in 2008. In a virtual press conference on Feb. 15, Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, territorial Community Services Minister John Streicker and Faro Mayor Leonard Fabor announced the Town of Faro will have a new public works and fire hall building in 2022. (Genesee Keevil/Yukon News file)
Fire hall, public works building will be built in Faro

Wildstone Construction Ltd. awarded contract

A train on the White Pass and Yukon Route cuts through the mountains as it approaches Fraser, B.C., on May 19, 2019. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Summer season for Chilkoot Trail and White Pass railway uncertain

Regulations banning cruises in Canadian waters “puts the season in serious doubt”

Most Read