Andy Carvill resigned as grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations on Monday.
He cited “personal reasons” for his departure in a release and wouldn’t comment further.
The day of Carvill’s departure was supposed to have been a turning-point for the council, which in recent years has been hobbled by infighting, a declining membership and no clear sense of purpose now that the organization’s mandate to prod along land-claim negotiations has largely been accomplished.
Monday, chiefs had planned to sign-off on a plan to restructure the council. But points of contention remained, a big one being exactly how much power the grand chief should have.
It remains unclear what exactly occurred at the meeting, but by the day’s end no agreement had been reached and Carvill had resigned.
Chiefs have 30 days to appoint an interim leader, who will stand in until an election can be held during the next general assembly in July.
Only 10 of Yukon’s 14 First Nations are currently members of the council. A big aim of the reform drive is to woo back the Kaska nations, the Vuntut Gwitchin and the Kwanlin Dun, said Peter Johnston, chief of the Teslin Tlingit Council.
“It would be great to have all the Yukon First Nations back together under one roof, if you will.”
But there’s no agreement on what the organization should accomplish. Members are split as to whether the council should serve as a political advocate, for example.
Some chiefs have become upset to learn that, when they visit Ottawa, bureaucrats and politicians think Carvill is their boss. To fix this, it’s been proposed to replace the title of grand chief with that of chair, and to strip the job of its current responsibilities as a “political spokesperson” for the organization.
But that hasn’t gone down well with other chiefs, particularly those without settled land claims, who believe the only way to get anywhere with Ottawa is to fight it.
Some self-governing First Nations also want the council to get out of the business of program delivery, which they see as their turf.
But nearly everyone agrees the council should exist in some form, said Johnston. “There’s almost consensus around the table that we need a new central body. It’s just exactly what that central body will be doing.”
Carvill has publicly stated he had no problem with changing his job title. “It doesn’t matter to me one way or another,” he said in a past interview. “It’s just a title.”
But reform discussions have been touchy enough that, when a special meeting was convened earlier in the month, reporters were ejected from the room so talks could carry on in secret.
It was also clear in past meetings that both Joe Linklater, chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin, and Mike Smith, chief of the Kwanlin Dun, are unimpressed with the restructuring proposal and had no immediate plans to rejoin the council.
However, Hammond Dick, chief of the Kaska Tribal Council, sounded warm to rejoining at meetings earlier in the month.
It remains unclear whether the current deadlock could be broken with the introduction of a new grand chief. But Johnston is hopeful this will be the case.
“I think it’s a good opportunity,” he said. “It just provides us with some new blood, new energy.”
Restructuring talks have been ongoing for almost a decade.
Carvill was first elected in 2005. He had one remaining year in his term.
The general assembly will be held from July 13 to 15 in Teslin.
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