A candidate who successfully ran for chief of Liard First Nation (LFN) is alleging the Yukon government interfered with the election by making an announcement featuring the previous chief just days beforehand.
Stephen Charlie, in Facebook posts and an interview with the News, said the Yukon government had essentially endorsed then-chief George Morgan by holding a teleconference June 25 about reaching a second agreement with LFN on the Resource Gateway project.
Morgan was running for re-election.
“If Yukon government was aware, I’m sure they’re aware that we had (an) election, they know what’s going on, but they undermined that whole process,” Charlie told the News on June 29, the same day as the election.
Charlie was ultimately elected as chief.
“… What the real question or real concern here is, Yukon government interfering with our election, and I want an apology from them, I want an apology from them to the Kaska people. (Premier) Sandy Silver should apologize for this and his ministers should apologize for this.”
The Resource Gateway project is a $360 million initiative, funded primarily by the federal government, to improve road access to mineral-rich areas in the territory. The Yukon government has been negotiating agreements with affected Yukon First Nations and has four in place. Two of those are with LFN — one for work on Nahanni Range Road, and the second for improvements to a section of the Robert Campbell Highway.
Charlie added that he wasn’t opposed to the agreement, which sets aside approximately $50 million for the roadwork as well as consultation, training and business-building opportunities for LFN citizens. He described it as a “great opportunity for the region,” but questioned the timing of the announcement as well as what he said was a lack of transparency on how the agreement was reached.
The term of the previous chief and council, he noted, had expired June 19.
Morgan did not respond to a request for comment.
In an emailed statement provided by Yukon government spokesperson Matthew Cameron, energy, mines and resources minister Ranj Pillai said that the second Resource Gateway agreement with LFN “was in the works for many months,” with a draft having been circulated in early March 2020.
LFN told the Yukon government that chief and council had approved the agreement on May 28, according to the statement, and “(having) received that information, we initiated our approval process, which was concluded on June 25.”
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement that will ensure the Liard First Nation has the necessary funding to participate effectively in the planning, design, assessment and regulatory processes for the upgrade to the Campbell Highway,” Pillai said in the statement.
“We look forward to working with the next government of the Liard First Nation to implement this agreement.”
Cameron did not respond to questions about whether the Yukon government believed it had interfered with LFN’s election.
Charlie said he had spoken to a Yukon government representative about the situation, and had also reached out to Yukon Party leader Currie Dixon and asked him to “run with it.”
“How many times has a First Nation called out to the Opposition, especially the conservatives, and say, ‘Run with it,’ or something on the Liberal government?” he asked.
“You know what? This being nice and letting people just walk all over the Kaska, it’s gone. And if I’m elected, I will remember that the Yukon government doesn’t respect the Kaska, you know? And I’ll bring it to the table.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org