Liard First Nation shuts office

In one of the new administration’s very first moves, Chief Daniel Morris and his councillors closed the First Nation’s office on Friday afternoon and sent everyone home.

The Liard First Nation has laid off almost its entire staff.

In one of the new administration’s very first moves, Chief Daniel Morris and his councillors closed the First Nation’s office on Friday afternoon and sent everyone home.

The mass layoffs came with no prior warning.

“After a cursory review of the finances, we realized that the First Nation is in significant financial stress,” said acting executive director George Morgan.

“It’s pretty bad.”

Chief Morris was unavailable for comment, and has not spoken publicly to any reporter since beginning his run for chief last November. Morgan said that will not be changing any time soon. His new role as executive director includes being the official government spokesperson.

Morgan didn’t say just how bad the financial situation is, but confirmed that nobody at the First Nation is being paid right now, not even Morris or the other councillors.

A statement issued by the First Nation blames the financial difficulties on unpaid debts to “vendors.”

The layoffs, which affect about 40 staff, will remain in place for the “short term,” Morgan said. Essential services like water delivery and homecare are still being carried out.

“Short term means as soon as this new chief and council can get a grip on the financial situation and talk to our partners at Indian Affairs and see if we can come up with viable solution,” said Morgan.

The First Nation currently has auditors going through the books trying to determine where all the government’s money went, Morgan said.

But according to former chief Liard McMillan, that audit should have been finished by now.

“The chartered accountants who are performing the audit for this year, my understanding when I left office is that we were about two weeks away from being done,” McMillan said.

McMillan didn’t run in December’s elections for chief and council, and left office on Dec. 16.

McMillan said he doesn’t know what could have happened to the finances in such a short time, but insists that things were not as desperate as Morgan says.

“When I left office prior to the election, there was money in the bank and also funding that was due to come in that did not require the completion of the audit,” McMillan said.

The last time Morris was chief, he implemented a loan program for First Nations citizens that McMillan said was questionable at best. Among the largest recipients of loans was Morris himself, who took more than $250,000, according to a report commissioned by the First Nation after Morris left office.

McMillan has long insisted that Morris took the money improperly and never paid it back, but Aboriginal Affairs refused to investigate the missing funds. During the last election, Morris maintained that he never took any money inappropriately and was instead made the scapegoat for other councillors’ unethical financial behaviour.

The last time around, Morris also refused to pay taxes to Revenue Canada, arguing that the First Nation government was tax-exempt. McMillan said that move cost the government $300,000 a year in legal fees and contributed to the nearly $2 million debt the government is currently saddled with.

McMillan admits finances have always been a challenge, even under his administration, but for the last 10 years the government has always managed to at least make payroll payments and never had to lay anyone off.

“As an employee, when Morris was chief last time, I recall he and his council laying off staff for two weeks out of the year without pay. It seems that we’re falling back into that pattern, unfortunately.”

Aboriginal Affairs is also auditing the First Nation’s finances. That investigation goes back to 2011, and does not cover the Liard First Nation Development Corporation.

Morgan said he has been in touch with Aboriginal Affairs and is hoping to set up a meeting with the federal department’s Yukon regional office soon.

Morgan ran against Morris in the LFN election in December and lost by only 22 votes. After the results were announced, Morgan said he was considering legal action over what he said was unfair vote counting.

“Our election regulations are very suspect,” Morgan said. “They don’t have any appeals mechanism so the only option is Federal Court,” Morgan said at the time.

But now he’s had a change of heart, he said.

“I thought about it over Christmas. I just thought that I’m just really tired of fighting. At the end of the day a court would have directed the First Nation to update its election regulations but that wouldn’t have helped me.

I was approached by council and asked if I would serve in this capacity in the short term. I’m still very passionate about helping to build good governance in Watson Lake. I want to see I can help us out of this desperate circumstance,” Morgan said.

Contact Jesse Winter at

Just Posted

The Fireweed Market in Shipyards Park will open on May 13. Joel Krahn/Yukon News
Whitehorse’s Fireweed Market opens May 13

The Fireweed Market will return with ‘exciting’ new and returning vendors

Ron Rousseau holds a sign saying ‘It’s time for a cultural shift’ during the Yukoners: Raise Your Voice Against Misogyny rally on May 11. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Protest held to condemn Yukon Party MLAs’ texts

A rally was held outside of legislature to condemn the inappropriate texts messages of Yukon Party MLAs Stacey Hassard and Wade Istchenko.


Wyatt’s World for May 12, 2021.… Continue reading

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley announced youth vaccination clinics planned for this summer. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon government file)
Vaccination campaign planned for Yukon youth age 12 and up

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for younger people on May 5.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Neil Hartling, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon president, left, said the new self-isolation guidelines for the Yukon are a ‘ray of hope’ for tourism operators. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Yukon tourism operators prepared for ‘very poor summer’ even with relaxed border rules

Toursim industry responds to new guidelines allowing fully vaccinated individuals to skip mandatory self-isolation.

A lawsuit has been filed detailing the resignation of a former Yukon government mine engineer. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A year after resigning, former chief mine engineer sues Yukon government

Paul Christman alleges a hostile work environment and circumvention of his authority led him to quit

Former Liberal MLA Pauline Frost speaks to reporters outside the courthouse on April 19. One of the voters accused of casting an invalid vote has been granted intervenor status in the lawsuit Frost filed last month. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Voters named in Pauline Frost election lawsuit ask to join court proceedings

The judge granted Christopher Schafer intervenor status

Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file
File photo of the legislative assembly. The previous spring sitting began on March 4 but was interrupted due to the election.
Throne speech kicks off short spring legislature sitting

The government will now need to pass the budget.

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Most Read