Paz meets the chiefs

Darrell Pasloski frustrated chiefs at the Council of Yukon First Nations general assembly this week. Challenged on the lack of land-use plans in the territory, the premier-elect had few suggestions.

Darrell Pasloski frustrated chiefs at the Council of Yukon First Nations general assembly this week.

Challenged on the lack of land-use plans in the territory, the premier-elect had few suggestions.

Without land-use plans, mineral staking in self-governing First Nations’ territories breaches their final agreements, said Ed Taylor chief of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation.

A decision on the Peel Watershed land-use plan is expected within weeks.

Taylor and Na-Cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn wanted to know what Pasloski intends to do with the slow-moving and expensive land-use planning process.

“He was evasive,” said Taylor of Pasloski.

In 15 years, only one of eight designated regions in the territory have an approved land-use plan.

The Peel plan, if accepted, will be the second.

Interim protection for key areas is needed before planning is done, said the chiefs.

As well, the whole process immediately needs more cash. And the practice of compensating miners for claims staked in areas that may, in the future, be protected should be stopped, they added.

Pasloski wouldn’t say where he stood on such things.

He’s currently learning a lot of new things and needed more time to become familiar with the issues, he said.

How much of the Peel should be protected, he was asked by one Na-Cho Nyak Dun delegate.

Pasloski wouldn’t say – he didn’t want to undermine the discussion.

“We need to follow that process now to ensure that the opportunity for the social and economic issues are addressed because, once you put a number on it, then it’s political,” he said. “I don’t think that that’s appropriate.”

Pasloski’s ambiguity on land-use plans wasn’t the only disappointment for aboriginal leaders.

His inability to commit to bolster the Yukon Forum, a gathering of native and non-native governments that has languished of late, was also a letdown for Chief Mathieya Alatini of the Kluane First Nation.

“He skirted the issue,” she said.

Yukon government’s bureaucrats have set the agenda for the meetings with no input from First Nation governments, said Alatini, citing information she’s received from her predecessors.

“I’ve heard a lot of frustration around First Nations concerns not being addressed at the table,” she said. “That these forums end up being glad-handing sessions.

“I was pressing Mr. Pasloski to commit to having these forums become more engagement sessions – which they were meant to be – so our issues get addressed and we can resolve them together.”

She tried to get Pasloski to answer a “yes” or “no” question.

“You know, all of us are really busy,” said Pasloski, beginning a convoluted answer that stretched on.

“It’s important that we continue to address the problems that affect all Yukoners, including Yukon First Nations,” he said. “I think it’s important to make sure everybody comes to the table as prepared as they can be to be able to make those decisions. I think that that’s what the Yukon Forum is intended to be. We’re committed to such forums. I think the opportunity to set the agenda occurs by everybody.”

On education, Pasloski received a warning from Chief Peter Johnston of the Teslin Tlingit Council.

“Be ready,” he said. “I am putting you on notice for us.

“We now have a mechanism called the First Nation Education Commission that will be the vehicle to provide us the ability not only to participate but, more importantly, to have a rightful place and a position within First Nations education.”

The territory, Ottawa and First Nations are on the cusp of signing an education deal.

It will make First Nations an integral part of education decisions in the territory, said Johnston. This ranges from aboriginal students and teachers to policy and curriculum. “All of it,” said Johnston.

“Education is a key priority. It’s fundamental for all growth and development. It’s fundamental for success for our future generations. It’s fundamental for the success of us, as First Nation governments …

but more importantly, having our students participate – which is probably a soft word – in today’s society and be proud of who they are. To make a stand and feel confidant in who they are as First Nation individuals.”

First Nations want to leverage more power through the next territorial election, whether it be with Pasloski and the Yukon Party, the Liberals or the New Democrats, said Johnston.

It’s an opportunity all chiefs are aware of, he added.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com