Putting First Nations first

"We need a better working relationship on government-to-government issues at all levels, but especially with our First Nations partners," said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell on Friday.

The Liberal party wants to partner with Yukon First Nations.

“We need a better working relationship on government-to-government issues at all levels, but especially with our First Nations partners,” said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell on Friday.

“Unlike the current government, when First Nations leadership wants to meet with us, we’ll be there to meet with them.”

The Fentie/Pasloski government only met with First Nations when it needed something from them, said Mitchell.

“That’s not a good way to improve relations – it is a way to build up tensions and divisions.”

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The Liberals will call a First Nations leaders summit within the first 100 days of taking office, said Mitchell.

The summit would be used to “discuss greater effectiveness and co-operation on the wide-ranging issues facing Yukon First Nations,” he said.

The Liberals will also work with First Nation governments to explore residential land market opportunities.

This will help counter the housing crisis, he said.

Mitchell has been meeting with Kwanlin Dun Chief Rick O’Brien, who is keen to lease First Nation land.

“Over time this will provide a larger revenue stream than they are currently getting from Ottawa,” said Mitchell, noting income tax from Yukoners living on First Nation land goes to the First Nation, not Ottawa.

Some Kwanlin Dun citizens may also move onto these leased lots, freeing up low-income housing for its residents, he said.

And by opening up more land, there is more opportunity to create affordable housing, said Mitchell.

The Liberals will also negotiate a new resource-revenue sharing agreement with Canada, something Mitchell tried to push former premier Dennis Fentie to do in January.

The Northwest Territories got a better deal, and Mitchell wants to see the Yukon follow suit.

But he wants to ensure Yukon First Nations are at the table during these negotiations too, he said.

The Liberals will also amend the Co-operation in Governance Act to improve relations with First Nation governments.

And they want to see more First Nations involved in territorial politics.

To encourage this, they will expand the Yukon Government Leadership Program to include First Nation government officials, and will push for Yukon government job swaps.

“We want to get people who are working for First Nations’ governments to do job swaps with employees in existing territorial government positions,” said Mitchell.

The job swaps would give both parties “intimate knowledge of the other’s government workings,” he said.

These swaps would be done on an individual basis, and only if both parties were willing, he added.

If First Nation governments agree, the Liberals also want to expand the services of the ombudsman to reach Yukon First Nations.

And the Liberals will lobby the federal government to ensure the nonprofit society of Northern Native Broadcasting Yukon receives its annual core funding.

“A Liberal government will use negotiation, not litigation, when it comes to aboriginal governments,” said Mitchell.

Contact Genesee Keevil at

gkeevil@yukon-news.com

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