Former Yukon Council of First Nations grand chief Ed Schultz is no longer co-chair of the education reform project.
Schultz’s resignation was submitted to CYFN on April 23.
The Council is “surprised but not devastated” by Schultz’s departure, said a CYFN statement issued Tuesday.
“The loss of Ed Schultz from this team at this late stage in the process is unfortunate but not catastrophic,” said grand chief Andy Carvill in the release.
The chiefs education committee, which appointed Schultz, will replace him quickly, added Carvill.
Schultz’s departure has remained below the radar at the Yukon legislature for more than a week.
Last week, Education Minister Patrick Rouble didn’t mention it during discussion about the education project.
This week, Rouble said he didn’t know Schultz had left.
“I haven’t received a letter of resignation from the co-chair, nor would I really expect to,” said Rouble on Tuesday.
“The co-chair is an employee of the Council of Yukon First Nations and I understand that he has talked about resigning with members of First Nation leadership.
“I’ve talked about it with chief (Joe) Linklater and we’re committed to going forward with the process of education and the future of our youth,” he said.
“It’s too important an issue to even contemplate failure on.”
But Schultz’s departure — and Rouble’s ignorance of it — further clouded debates about education, which have been peppered with allegations of secrecy and cover-ups.
Rouble’s plan to consult Yukon communities following the education project’s earlier consultations is a veiled effort to “stonewall” it, said Liberal critic Eric Fairclough.
Rouble and the education project executive are blocking public access to dozens of position papers written after Schultz and his co-chair, Collin Kelly, gathered information from First Nations, he said.
“It’s supposed to be a public consultation, yet the findings aren’t in the public at all for comment,” said Fairclough.
“The education act review is seven years overdue and the education reform project raised expectation that … something better’s going to come out of it.
“They raised expectations, but nothing is coming forward yet. Why?”
The project team must now consult with Yukon communities before a final report is drafted in the fall, countered Rouble.
Those meetings are scheduled in most Yukon communities between now and June 21.
Linklater sits with Rouble on the executive committee for the project, along with Kaska representative Liard McMillan.
Linklater discovered Schultz resigned last Thursday after talking to CYFN, he said.
He isn’t sure why, he said.
And he hasn’t spoken to Rouble “in any kind of detail” about it.
The chief’s committee will make a recommendation about how to proceed, said Linklater.
“As far as we’re concerned, the work of the co-chair’s is very close to completion, so there’s a couple of options we’re looking at,” he said.
The information gathered and put into position papers — which remain out of reach to the public — has raised questions about Schultz’s departure.
Linklater admitted the papers exist.
But they won’t be presented at the community meetings, he said.
“I think we’re going to wait until after the community consultations, and then all this material will be delivered to the executive committee, and then we’ll decide how we boil all that down into something we can present to the public,” he said.
Asked about the position papers, Rouble lashed out at Fairclough.
“I’m really uncomfortable about the whole issue of position,” he said.
“Some would say it’s a question of semantics. But my way of thinking is when you take a position that is your final stand.
“We’re not at the area of taking a final stand. The ideas of one group need to be shared with others,” he said.
But it’s unclear how many of those ideas will be shared if the papers aren’t made available.
Schultz didn’t return phone calls.
Contact Tim Querengesser at firstname.lastname@example.org