The contest for the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun’s new chief is a three-way race between incumbent Simon Mervyn, current councillor Barbara Buyck and Mayo-born businessman Ed Champion.
The election to decide the community’s next chief and one councillor will be held on Nov. 6.
For Mervyn, the biggest issue facing his community is a possible legal battle over the Peel planning process.
“Land use issues are a major concern, respectively the Peel river watershed,” he said.
Mervyn is the spokesperson for all the First Nations involved in the Peel planning process. Two weeks ago the Yukon government put forth proposed modifications to the recommended Peel plan, changes that Mervyn said don’t live up to treaty obligations.
“Our biggest concern is that the parties in particular are not paying attention to the expectation of the agreements. We are a patient people. We will abide by the process; realistically we gave up a huge landmass as part of that agreement. There’s no question we will abide by the process but we are prepared to go to court,” said Mervyn.
If re-elected, he would tackle the community’s aging infrastructure and work to improve health and wellness.
“In regards to all the traumatization that’s happened over the years, there is a big need to go back and figure out how to help our people heal,” said Mervyn.
“We need better programming I think. We really we need to look at ways to reestablish the independent values of the free roaming peoples that we once were,” he said.
Ed Champion also puts health and wellness at the top of his priority list. But for him, wellness and healing goes beyond drug and alcohol treatment.
“I don’t have one cookie cutter program or idea. It’s about bringing a multitude of programs. The community is crying for it. For example, someone who doesn’t struggle with drugs or alcohol but could use a life coach. Lets take it to a new level. It’s about interacting with and learning from elders, and completing the circle,” he said.
In 2011, Champion was part of a group that tabled a petition that aimed to oust Mervyn as chief. The petition, which carried 74 signatures from the community, charged that the chief and council were “unfit for office” and called for a snap election.
It was ruled out of order at the First Nation’s annual general meeting. That prompted 15 protesters to picket the band offices, citing concerns that addictions and wellness issues were being ignored by the administration.
Mervyn said if re-elected, he would work on the elections act and “tighten up” the First Nation’s constitution to deal with future conflicts.
“Wellness and healing has not been a priority with the current government,” said Champion. “Money is available, but it hasn’t been a priority. People continue to suffer without adequate services being made available … It was our constitutional right to voice our concerns. People still want to be heard. That’s what this election is about.”
On the Peel plan, Champion was noncommittal.
“I’m going to be a little bit neutral on that. I really respect the work that administration staff have done, and I will continue to support that as chief, but moving forward I’m certainly aware that all stakeholders need to come out of this with fair agreements,” he said.
Chief candidate and current councillor Barbara Buyck did not return multiple phone calls by press-time.
As well as the race for chief, there are four candidates running for one council position. Voters can cast ballots for Robert Hager, Bryan Moses, Millie Olsen and Teresa Samson.
The election will be held this coming Tuesday, Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Polling stations will be set up at the Na-cho Nyak Dun government house in Mayo and at the Westmark hotel conference room four in Whitehorse.
Mail-in ballots can be requested from the chief electoral officer by contacting Connie Posein at 867-996-2258 or Karen Van Bibber at 867-996-2265.
Contact Jesse Winter at