Another candidate has joined the race to be chief of the Liard First Nation.
Current deputy chief Jim Wolftail said if he’s elected, he will push for a self-government agreement for his First Nation, but he wants to negotiate it outside the Umbrella Final Agreement framework.
“We’re having a really, really hard time economically, even with industry. There has to be some sort of agreement in place for us to be working together. We can’t keep fighting, we can’t keep going through the courts and we’re definitely not going through land claims,” Wolftail said.
He pointed to the recent dispute between the First Nation and the federal government over social assistance programming as a good example of why a self-government agreement is needed.
But he’s reluctant to go through the Umbrella Final Agreement framework - as the other self-governing Yukon First Nations have done - because he doesn’t think its working for them.
“What good is it doing them? We constantly hear of them going through the same old battles. The government’s not living up to it,” he said.
He also wants to see a pre-treatment and aftercare centre developed to help citizens begin to heal from the substance abuse challenges that many in the community face.
Wolftail was born in Watson Lake and said he plans to be buried there. He has seen the struggles with addictions and wants to do something about it, he said.
“The priority has been business and development and a good job has been done there, but we must now divert much more time and resources directly to social and community needs,” Wolftail said.
The other important plank in Wolftail’s platform is increasing accountability, which he says he would do by holding more meetings and including Kaska elders in more community conversations.
Accountability seems to be the strongest buzzword in Watson Lake these days.
An ongoing dispute between current chief Liard McMillan and the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society looks like a cloud that could remain over the chief’s chair even after McMillan leaves. McMillan and LAWS executive director Ann Maje Raider have been trading jabs in the media, each accusing the other of unaccountable financial practices.
Now, chief candidate George Morgan is wading into the fray with questions about how the current elections committee was formed.
“It’s our policy, our custom that we have an election for the election committee, usually in the summer time before the election,” Morgan said.
“This never happened this year. The story that we’re being told by the LFN office is that the election committee was appointed in August of 2012,” he said.
The elections committee was formed a year and three months ago, confirmed McMillan, but he couldn’t explain what the rationale for the early formation was.
“Why not?” he asked, adding that the LFN elections rules say an election committee must be formed at least six months before an election, but there’s no rule preventing it from being formed earlier.
McMillan said this election committee was formed according to the rules at the 2012 general assembly. The First Nation hasn’t had its 2013 general assembly because it still hasn’t produced its audited financial statements.
But Morgan asserts that no committee was formed in 2012 - at least not according to the rules - and he doesn’t know who is on it this year. The election committee spokeswoman, Laurie Allen, said the committee will release the names of its members and all the nominated candidates today, but that release was not available by press time.
“We’re getting different stories out of the LFN election office. I’m concerned about the fairness and transparency about the election process,” said Morgan. “I would like to see the individuals supposedly on the committee to be identified to the community. We still officially don’t know.”
According to McMillan, Morgan’s own father is on the committee.
While Morgan was hesitant to discuss his father even by name, he said he hasn’t seen any official paper listing the names of the committee or the candidates for chief.
“I can’t confirm or deny that. Don’t let them pull you into a red herring issue here. We need to know who they are, because they need to be held accountable,” Morgan said.
“That individual was not in Watson Lake at the time of the last general assembly, so how could he accept a nomination? All I’m hearing are rumours coming out of that office,” he said.
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