Based on the platforms of the candidates running to be chief, the Liard First Nation is a sorely divided community.
Candidates all have their own views on how best to heal what are becoming historic rifts among the Kaska people.
One of Susan Magun’s ideas is to form youth and elder councils.
“The reason why I’m running is because our community is so divided. I would like to see our community reunited,” Magun said.
“The divide is coming from within our own government. Within the last, say, 10 years, it’s gotten worse,” she said.
Magun wants to give more of a voice back to the community so the government isn’t left to operate in a bubble as she says it has been.
“The government has been running on its own without community involvement. I want to include everyone in our government because right now it’s not happening,” she said.
Magun is a long-time member of that government. She has 22 years of experience in the First Nation’s finance department, and spent part of that time as the director of finance.
She also said she wants to see more job opportunities for young people in Watson Lake, and a more efficient development corporation.
Earlier this fall the First Nation made the controversial move of handing control for its social assistance programming back to the federal Department of Aboriginal Affairs. Current Chief Liard McMillan said the federal government wasn’t providing enough money to run the program effectively, and that LFN citizens were suffering because of it.
Aboriginal Affairs hired a contractor to hand out social assistance cheques and manage the program in the community on an interim basis.
After the recent spat, Magun said she wants to see control over the program brought back under the LFN’s responsibilities.
Her major goal, however, is to heal divides between the community and government.
“We were once strong, and we have lost our voice in the government. There’s nowhere where people can go to air their concerns. When they do, they get threatened (with lawsuits),” she said.
But Magun has her own ongoing legal battle with the government that she wants to lead.
In September 2010, Magun was fired for “job abandonment” after taking two and a half months of sick leave.
According to a letter sent by her lawyer to the LFN seeking an out-of-court settlement, Magun gave her boss a doctor’s note in June of that year and asked to begin claiming her short-term disability benefits. She was supposed to return to work Sept. 15 but she was fired a week before. According to her lawyer, Magun wasn’t paid her benefits while she was sick.
Her lawyer’s letter claims $156,660.00 in damages, unpaid vacation time and unpaid sick leave.
But the Liard First Nation did an internal review and said that Magun had overpaid herself by almost $9,000 in her last two years in the finance department, where she was responsible for paying all LFN employees, including herself.
When the federal government investigated, it determined that Magun had been paid for all of the time and benefits she was trying to claim.
Now Magun is taking the case before the Canadian Labour Board, with a hearing expected in the New Year.
After consulting with her lawyer, Magun said she couldn’t comment on whether that case could constitute a conflict of interest if she were elected as chief.
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