Victor Kisoun grew up around politics.
His grandmother, Bertha Allen, was a Vuntut Gwitchin elder from Old Crow who ran in the 1984 federal election for the NDP in the Northwest Territories.
Kisoun calls his grandmother a “force of nature within my family.”
“Any time a political discussion or any kind of dialogue about the conditions of our world came up, my grandma always made it a point of fact to say if you want to complain or criticize the world around you, you need to be able to stand up, speak out and take action,” he said.
Kisoun is taking that advice to heart now. He has announced that he will be seeking the NDP nomination for the next federal election.
Kisoun is the first candidate to put his name forward. The federal NDP hasn’t set a date yet to vote on who will represent them in the Yukon on the next ballot.
As a performer with the Kaska Dena drummers, community organizer and former vice chair of the Kaska Dena Council, Kisoun calls himself a “Berger baby.”
His father, Dave Porter, who would go on to be politically active with the Kaska, got his first job in journalism travelling with famed lawyer Thomas Berger in the ‘70s to record testimonies during the Berger inquiries.
That’s where he met Kisoun’s mother.
“I see my political aspirations as an extension of that generation. They’ve laid that foundation down for us. Not just my father and First Nations, but people like Audrey McLaughlin as well,” he said.
“They’ve laid that foundation for my generation to build the walls on.”
It’s time for the younger generation to step up in politics, the 33-year-old said.
“We’ve inherited a lot of stresses and a lot of problems, but we’ve also inherited a great opportunity. If we can work together I think we can do a lot of change.”
Getting young people to vote will also be key in the next election, he said.
In 2011, about 7,000 eligible voters did not cast a ballot.
“The vast majority of those are going to be young people. So if you can get those young people out and voting you’re going to make a big change.”
If he earns a spot on the federal ballot, Kisoun said there are multiple issues he hopes will become election topics, including affordable housing, childcare and the minimum wage.
“But when it comes to deep, deep down in my heart, the issues I feel close to, I think reconciling the relationship with First Nations is first and foremost,” he said.
“I think if we can start to repair some of the damage that has been done, we can start to move forward on a lot of issues. I think sustainable development will occur because what you’re doing is making certainty for investment to happen.”
He points to ongoing battles like the changes to the Yukon’s environmental assessment process that are part of the federal Bill S-6.
First Nations argue that the amendments are at odds with their final agreements with Yukon and Canada, and have threatened to sue if they move ahead as proposed.
This week the territorial government announced it will be appealing a Yukon Supreme Court decision around the Peel River watershed.
“When you’re tied up in court cases and you have First Nations people that are unwilling to work with you because of your treatment and your disrespect that you’ve shown, that is not the way to build a healthy economy,” he said.
Kisoun was born in Whitehorse but grew up all over the North.
He jokes that he’s related to pretty much everybody in Old Crow, Watson Lake and Lower Post.
“Pretty much the western Arctic I consider my family.”
Kisoun will take on two veteran Yukon politicians if he wins the NDP slot.
Both former Liberal MP Larry Bagnell and current Conservative MP Ryan Leef have been chosen by their parties to be on the ballot.
But Kisoun said being new could be an advantage.
“I think I also don’t have some of the baggage that these two candidates carry with them. Some of it is really heavy baggage.”
The federal Green Party hasn’t picked a candidate for the Yukon yet.
The next election campaign should get under way by the fall.
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