Opposition parties have called out the government for postponing the Yukon Forum at the last minute.
The forums are an opportunity for the territorial government to meet with First Nation governments.
NDP leader Liz Hanson said that the government waited until the last minute to cancel a forum planned for last Friday. The First Nation leaders were already on their way to Whitehorse when the announcement was made.
“Some of these guys drove through pretty damn cold weather, like 50 below coming down from Dawson.”
CYFN Grand Chief Ruth Massie confirmed this in an email, said Hanson.
Massie is out of the territory and could not be reached for comment by press time.
But Premier Darrell Pasloski said that the date for the forum was never officially set, and the chiefs came into town independently for a meeting they had planned.
“There was no formal notification of a forum,” he said. “I mean there was nothing actually put out saying that this would be the date it was occurring.”
Government officials still have work to do before they are ready for a forum, said Pasloski.
They are still working on a number of issues, including land-based healing and treatment, he said.
A postponement until the new year could mean that the next Yukon Forum could be held in conjunction with an intergovernmental forum, where the federal government also comes to the table, said Pasloski.
The premier declined to comment on when First Nations chiefs were notified that the forum had been postponed, and on when the next meeting would take place.
Liberal leader Sandy Silver doesn’t buy the government’s excuse for cancelling the meeting, he said.
“If you believe the answer from the premier that the officials weren’t ready, I would assume that they would have let the chiefs know well in advance that this was going to happen.”
In the legislature Tuesday, Silver asked if the real reason might be that First Nations are not in agreement on the new resource royalty deal announced in October.
“Can the premier confirm that all Yukon First Nation governments have, in fact, agreed to the new rates, and will he table a copy of the agreement?”
Few details were given when the new deal was announced in late October. At the time, the premier promised that they would be made public at the next Yukon Forum, which he said might occur before the end of November.
The Cooperation in Governance Act specifies that four meetings of the forum will take place each year, unless the members agree to meet fewer times.
Last week’s meeting would have been the second of 2012, and the second under Pasloski’s leadership.
Prior to this year, no Yukon Forum had occurred for several years.
The premier has mentioned the reinstating of the Yukon Forum several times during this sitting of the legislature as an example of his government’s continued efforts to work with First Nations.
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