Strahl scraps meetings with Yukon First Nations

Where is Chuck Strahl hiding? That's what Ruth Massie, chief of the Ta'an Kwach'an Council, wants to know.

Where is Chuck Strahl hiding?

That’s what Ruth Massie, chief of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council, wants to know.

Strahl, minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, was scheduled to be a keynote speaker today at an Ottawa conference organized by a coalition of First Nations. Eleven Yukon First Nations are in attendance.

On short notice, Strahl cancelled. He couldn’t make the meeting.

He’s said to be in the Yukon.

To compound matters, Strahl has also cancelled a meeting with First Nations in Whitehorse next week, on May 19.

Maybe he’s minister of avoiding Indian Affairs, muses a cheeky press release issued by the coalition.

“The minister’s actions in recent days make it clear he is avoiding us and his legal and constitutional obligations,” Massie said in the release.

It’s a touchy time for Strahl to cancel meetings.

Yukon’s 11 First Nations with final agreements are waiting to negotiate how much money they are to receive annually from Ottawa for their implementation deals.

“We could, perhaps, understand one meeting being cancelled for unavoidable reasons, but to cancel two meeting over the space of a week, and to do so in a fashion that ensures he is in the Yukon when we are not—and is not in the Yukon when we are—seems a deliberate attempt to avoid us,” said Chief Willy Sheldon of the Kluane First Nation.

“We are very concerned that we are being held back from implementing our own education and child-welfare systems,” said Chief Mark Wedge of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation.

“These are desperately needed given the territory’s schools are one of the worst in Canada with the lowest graduation rates, and given the failure of the territory’s child-welfare services.”

Strahl’s office would not confirm his whereabouts before deadline.

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