New government meets the chiefs

Despite sitting at the same table, the new territorial government and Yukon First Nations had trouble seeing eye-to-eye. The two groups met during leadership meetings at the Council of Yukon First Nations on Tuesday.

Despite sitting at the same table, the new territorial government and Yukon First Nations had trouble seeing eye-to-eye.

The two groups met during leadership meetings at the Council of Yukon First Nations on Tuesday.

First Nations can play a crucial role in housing by freeing up the small parcels of their land for lease, said Premier Darrell Pasloski, starting things off.

There are opportunities to partner on energy projects and when it comes to education, the responsibility falls on parents and communities, as well as government, he said.

When it comes to addictions, the government can help now because the budget is in good shape, he added, committing to supporting after-care programming and land-based treatment, like Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s Jackson Lake Healing Centre.

The chiefs sat quietly while he spoke.

At times, some nodded, especially when Pasloski mentioned his commitment to re-establish the Yukon Forum, which was a regular meeting between the territory and First Nations.

But the nodding stopped with Pasloski’s next statement.

“There’s no point in bringing things to the table that we can’t agree on,” he said. “I don’t always agree with my wife, but we still get along.”

Once he finished, it was the chiefs’ turn.

Nacho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn went first.

“We know all of this,” he said of Pasloski’s list. “And guess what – you have to go to First Nations with all those issues.

“We gave up 97 per cent of our landmass, we retained three (per cent), and everything we’ve tried has failed. There is a need to abide by the agreements. We have to find some way to share the money coming to Yukon. The message going to Canada is that we’re not solving the issues.”

The chiefs specifically asked for participation – if only by observer status – in discussions next week with Ottawa over the new resource royalty sharing agreement.

Danny Cresswell, deputy Kha Shade Heni of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation, asked that there be better co-operation within government departments so that First Nation people and issues don’t get lost in the cracks.

Chief Eddie Taylor of the Tr’ondek Hewch’in First Nation asked that the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources stop issuing subsurface permits on Category B lands while First Nations are doing their own land-use plans.

And White River First Nation Chief David Johnny told the new premier that unsettled First Nations should not be ignored, despite not having land claim agreements.

Chief James Allen of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations asked about the government’s commitment to land-use planning.

Funding for this is Ottawa’s responsibility, said Pasloski – even after being told there’s only one fifth of the original money left, while only one plan has been signed, and Ottawa has already said it won’t give anymore funding.

For the most part, Pasloski remained expressionless while the chiefs spoke.

Mervyn challenged the new premier to sit down with First Nations and commit to a work plan for the territory, adding that years from now there could be a statue made of Pasloski if he could actually achieve a fair working relationship between the groups.

Amid laughter, Pasloski said he wasn’t interested in becoming a statue.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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