For Michelle Friesen, diversity on Whitehorse city council is important and she wants to bring a First Nations perspective to city hall.
Friesen is one of 17 candidates running for six councillor positions in the Oct. 21 municipal election.
In an Oct. 12 interview, Friesen said it’s the love of her community, which sits on her family’s traditional territory, that prompted her to put her name forward.
She pointed out the last time a First Nations person served on Whitehorse city council was Ed Schultz, who served from 1991 to 1994. He was also the first Indigenous person to be elected to city council. Schultz served one term as a councillor, but went on to serve two terms as grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations.
“It’s long overdue,” Friesen, a member of the Wolf clan, said of having a First Nations voice on council, pointing out she was born during Schultz’ term in office.
Pointing out that municipal government is closest to the community, Friesen said she is excited to potentially be part of the next city council and work on the number of issues that keep coming up on the campaign trail.
Housing and climate change are among the top issues. They also came up on the territorial campaign trail when Friesen ran under the NDP banner in the riding of Mountainview. Friesen said she also heard the same issues focused on during the federal election in September, showing just how much of a concern they are to so many residents.
“There are some issues that overlap, definitely,” she said.
The housing situation is having a major impact on residents. It’s time to do something about it, Friesen said.
As a councillor, Friesen said she would like to see the city work with First Nations on the issue.
She also sees allowing for higher density developments that could create more units on lots and looking at potential regulations to prevent units being used for short-term rentals like AirBnB accommodations.
Similarly, climate change and its impacts are affecting many aspects of life for Whitehorse residents ranging from mental health to flooding experienced this year and more.
Friesen highlighted the importance of decisions made today for future generations and said she would like the city listen to youth as well as knowledge keepers in trying to address climate change.
She would also push for improved transit as well as active transportation routes as a way to address climate change.
Friesen brings with her extensive experience with a number of volunteer organizations in the city such as Shredhers, a women’s mountain biking program she founded in 2020 that aims to support mental health and wellness while also empowering women.
That experience, she said, has given her a broad perspective that she hopes to bring to council chambers.
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