What’s happening with the Liard First Nation?

The Liard First Nation is struggling. Or that’s what it seems like from the outside, since what little information that filters out comes from local citizens opposing the current chief and council.

The Liard First Nation is struggling.

Or that’s what it seems like from the outside, since what little information that filters out comes from local citizens opposing the current chief and council.

The community is divided over the chief, Daniel Morris, and his decisions.

Two years after the federal government stepped in because it feared core services, from social assistance to pensions, were at risk of not being delivered, it’s hard to gauge what, if anything has changed.

A Vancouver-based firm, Ganhada Management Group, is in charge of delivering those services.

Ganhada controls $4.4 million in funding to deliver those services to Liard citizens.

The bulk of it, $2.6 million, is for “basic needs,” said a spokesperson for Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, without specifying what those needs are.

The feds first said that was a temporary, last-resort measure.

But then last March, INAC told the First Nation it would remain under third-party management. Morris filed a lawsuit this past May challenging that decision.

In a community badly hurt by the economic slowdown and the closing of several mines, tension is growing.

A group of citizens gathered under the name Kaska Concerned about Land Protection and Good Government is acting as the de facto official opposition.

They started raising concerns when Morris, along with other Kaska chiefs, signed a resource agreement with the Yukon government last February.

The agreement only sets out a plan for negotiating further resource agreements for specific sectors such as forestry, mining and oil and gas.

Then earlier this week the same group raised concerns about the regular election scheduled for next December.

Chief and council missed a deadline to set up an election oversight committee.

There is still time to hold a special meeting to appoint that committee, but George Morgan, a member of Kaska Concerned is skeptical.

He told the News Tuesday they would have to consider organizing the meeting themselves or getting a court order.

People in the community are patient, elder Alfred Chief, who is also a spokesperson with Kaska Concerned, told the News Thursday.

“There is quite a few people who are just waiting for the election to happen,” he said.

During the last election, Morgan lost to Morris by 22 votes.

Chief blamed vote splitting – there were too many candidates, he said – for Morgan’s defeat.

Morgan himself told the News today he plans to run in the upcoming election.

He was the executive director of the First Nation from January to April 2014, before resigning.

“I think he has a fairly good chance at winning the next election,” Chief said.

Financial trouble

The News previously reported the First Nation owed $400,000 to INAC. But the federal department refuses to disclose how much money the First Nation still owes.

In fact, there is little INAC will say about LFN besides boiler-plate statements about third-party management.

Morgan claims the Canada Revenue Agency seized the First Nation’s bank account earlier this month because of unpaid income taxes totalling $1 million.

In 2014, former LFN chief Liard McMillan told the News that the First Nation ended up with about $2 million in debt after Morris refused to pay income tax during his first term, arguing the First Nation was tax-exempt.

The CRA refused to confirm whether they had seized the accounts, citing privacy policies.

There is also the question of where the rent money paid through social assistance goes.

Chief and Morgan claim that INAC sends the portion of social assistance money dedicated to rent straight to the chief and council, because the band owns the homes.

Morgan said it accounts for about $60,000 per month.

The News asked INAC why it would send that money directly to the chief when it didn’t trust him to deliver basic services to Liard citizens.

“Social assistance client payments for rent are sent to the landlord of the property,” INAC spokesperson Shawn Jackson wrote in an email.

On top of that, Morgan claims unpaid bills have piled up, reaching around $1 million.

Governance trouble

The First nation is still responsible for other duties including governance.

But council meetings have not taken place since Morris got elected in 2013, Morgan and Chief both said.

They say Morris is rarely seen in the community.

The News couldn’t reach Morris for comment by press time today. On Thursday a woman answering his phone told the News he would call back. The News couldn’t reach two councillors said to be loyal to Morris.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

During our recent conversation, John Nicholson showed me snapshots of his time working on the Yukon riverboats 70 years ago. (Michael Gates)
History Hunter: Yukon man relives the riverboat days after seven decades

John Nicholson took summer work on Yukon steamers in the 1950s

Whitehorse City Hall at its Steele Street entrance. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Change of plans approved for city hall

Project would see 1966 city hall demolished

A city map shows the property at 107 Range Road. The zoning is now in place for developers to proceed with plans for a Dairy Queen drive-thru. If plans proceed on schedule the new restaurant is anticipated to open in October. (Cyrstal Schick/Yukon News)
October opening eyed for Dairy Queen

Will depend on everything going according to plan

NDP candidate Annie Blake, left, and Liberal incumbent Pauline Frost. (Submitted photos)
Official recount confirms tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin riding

Both candidates Pauline Frost and Annie Blake are still standing with 78 votes each

Artist’s rendering of a Dairy Queen drive-thru. At its April 13 meeting, Whitehorse city council approved a zoning change to allow a drive-thru at 107 Range Road. Developers sought the change to build a Dairy Queen there. (Submitted)
Drive-thru approved by Whitehorse city council at 107 Range Road

Rezoning could pave the way for a Dairy Queen

Joel Krahn/joelkran.com Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Emily Tredger at NDP election night headquarters after winning the Whitehorse Centre riding. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Emily Tredger takes Whitehorse Centre for NDP

MLA-elect ready to get to work in new role

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Two new cases of COVID-19 variant identified in territory

“If variants were to get out of control in the Yukon, the impact could be serious.”

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

Most Read