Premier Sandy Silver, left, and Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Peter Johnston at the Yukon Forum in Whitehorse on Feb. 14. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)

Leaders raise expectations for federal election at Yukon Forum

‘We really need to be respectful of the progress that we have made in a short period of time’

Territorial leaders addressed this year’s federal election during the first Yukon Forum of 2019.

“We’ll work with any government in Ottawa, but they need to be able to work and understand from previous governments what is good, what’s working and to not pull any rugs out from underneath that, if that does happen,” said Premier Sandy Silver.

“Any government in Ottawa should be smart to recognize the unique differences of Yukon,” he continued.

Mining, economic development and plans for an upcoming forum with the federal government were talking points on Feb. 14.

It’s unclear when the intergovernmental forum will take place. Newly minted Minister of Indigenous Services Seamus O’Regan will attend when it does occur, however.

Peter Johnston, grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, said regardless of what’s to happen during the fall election, work to inform federal counterparts will continue.

“(We will highlight) some of the priorities we see, especially from (a) Yukon First Nations’ perspective, and talk about the journey that we’ve been on and the importance of working together from a Northern perspective and directly to Ottawa,” he said.

One priority involves funding arrangements with the federal government, Johnston said.

“We’ve had many discussions with (the territorial cabinet), just in regards to the Yukon government sometimes being the middle man,” he said, noting it was the 26th anniversary of the Umbrella Final Agreement.

The day also marked 46th years of Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow, the precursor to the final agreement.

Asked for his approach if there is to be a potential change at the federal level, Johnston seemed confident in how things are being run currently.

“We lived under a double-era Conservative government and I’m not here to bring back the past because we’re in a new reality, a new future,” he said. “I don’t want to think too far in the future. Right now, we really need to be respectful of the progress that we have made in a short period of time.”

Silver spoke highly of the federal government.

“We have a current government that has changed things,” he said, noting Intergovernmental Affairs has a Northern component.

Silver also said that Yukon Days, where Yukon ministers and chiefs travel to Ottawa to meet with their federal counterparts, have been progressive.

“I think that has helped structure how Ottawa moves, bobs and weaves to make sure they have the right people in the right places,” he said.

That said, the work is far from complete, Silver continued.

“Self-governing is confusing to Ottawa, it really is,” he said. “Northern issues (are) confusing to Ottawa. We have governments that are trying their best to pay attention and to move past a colonial approach, but it takes time and it takes effort. The more concise we can be with our language and with our priorities the better it’s going to be for all Yukoners.”

Contact Julien Gignac at julien.gignac@yukon-news.com

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