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School referendums scheduled to join Yukon’s First Nation School Board

Communities will be asked if they want school to fall under First Nation School Board
Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow is one of six schools in the territory that will hold a referendum focused on whether the school should move to fall under the authority of the newly established Yukon First Nation School Board. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Voters at six schools throughout the territory will be asked in referendums if they want their school to fall under the authority of the newly established First Nation School Board.

The framework to establish the new school board was announced in June with 10 Yukon First Nation representatives and the Yukon government signing off on the framework.

Under the framework, existing school councils are able to pass a resolution asking the council be dissolved and become part of the First Nation School Board.

From there it is to be put to a referendum of the school’s attendance area. If 50 per cent plus one person vote in favour, the school will be incorporated into the First Nation School Board, which will be established if voters for at least one of the schools favour moving to the First Nation School Board.

The schools

In a Nov. 9 statement, Yukon government said that as of Oct. 31 there were six schools that submitted a resolution to trigger a referendum.

While six schools are listed, there will be just five referendums as the two schools in Watson Lake — Johnson Elementary School and Watson Lake Secondary School — will have one referendum.

The other schools to have referendums include Chief Zzeh Gittlit School in Old Crow, Grey Mountain Primary School in Whitehorse, Ross River School in Ross River, and St. Elias Community School in Haines Junction.

“We all have a responsibility to ensure that our educational system is reflective of First Nations history, culture and languages,” Education Minister Jeanie McLean said. “The First Nation School Board Framework Agreement provides a path to advance reconciliation and provides First Nations governments’ greater authority in the education of their citizens. A school board is an additional tool to support Yukon First Nations to meaningfully shape their children’s education and improve their educational outcomes.”

While Oct. 31 marked the last day for school councils to pass a resolution, petitions calling for a transition to the school board signed by at least 20 per cent of electors in a school attendance area will be accepted until Dec. 13.

Petition packages are available by emailing

Elections Yukon will oversee referendum voting, which will start Jan. 11 with a 17-day voting period. Multiple options will be available for those submitting ballots.

Key dates and process

In a Nov. 10 statement, Elections Yukon identified Jan. 5 as an opening early application date for mail-out referendum ballots.

The voting period will be from Jan. 11 to 27.

If one or more of the referendum votes support a school being under the authority as the First Nation School Board, a school board election will be held between Feb. 28 and March 28.

“From an electoral perspective, the establishment of a school board follows a three-step process; the resolution or petition approval process to determine which schools will have a referendum vote, the referendum vote in each of those school attendance areas to determine if the school is to be part of a school board, and, if one or more schools is part of a school board, the election of trustees,” Maxwell Harvey, Elections Yukon Chief Electoral Officer, said in a statement.

Elections Yukon is working to recruit referendum officers for the vote in communities where the referendum will be happening.

When the framework was announced, the Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Education Directorate said each school in the school board would operate differently to reflect the needs of its community and students.

They said common threads expected at the schools would be increased on-the-land and experiential learning, increased First Nations language instruction and elders present in the classroom.

“Our elders are living history books and as opposed to separating them in our societies, they are entrenched. So they will be put front and centre, but it is up to each region, their respective councils, to begin charting that path by the community for the community,” Dana Tizya-Tramm, chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and chair of the Chiefs Committee on Education, said.

— With files from Jim Elliott

Contact Stephanie Waddell at

Stephanie Waddell

About the Author: Stephanie Waddell

I joined Black Press in 2019 as a reporter for the Yukon News, becoming editor in February 2023.
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