What’s in a title?

Is Grand Chief Andy Carvill's title a little too grand? Some chiefs think so. They're upset to learn that, when they visit Ottawa, bureaucrats and politicians think Carvill is their boss.

Is Grand Chief Andy Carvill’s title a little too grand?

Some chiefs think so. They’re upset to learn that, when they visit Ottawa, bureaucrats and politicians think Carvill is their boss.

They want to make it clear it’s the other way around, and that real political power resides with them.

Hence the push underway to change Carvill’s title to chair. Less grand, certainly. It’s meant to convey the idea that he’s more administrator than political leader.

It’s just one of many proposed changes intended to breathe new life into the Council of Yukon First Nations, which, hobbled by infighting, has seen its membership decline over the past decade.

Beyond the name change, the restructuring plans would take power from Carvill’s hands and put it into the hands of the chiefs. Gone would be Carvill’s existing duties to “act as the main political spokesperson” of the organization, and to represent CYFN “at the territorial, national and international levels.”

But considerable disagreements remain, as evident during a special meeting held in Whitehorse on Monday and Tuesday.

“I’m here with clear direction we will support the grand chief title,” said Eddie Taylor, chief of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in.

Silence followed.

“Maybe I was out-voted there,” Taylor said with the chuckle.

“No, people are thinking,” said the chair, Dave Joe.

Carvill’s title isn’t the only sensitive subject. Other outstanding concerns include how many votes each First Nation should receive, and under which circumstances associate members – Gwitchin from the Northwest Territories currently have this status, and Kaska from the Yukon and British Columbia are being courted – could vote.

These subjects were evidently touchy enough for talks to be held in secret. Mark Wedge, chief of the Carcross Tagish First Nation, called for the meeting to be moved in camera and reporters were told to leave.

Reform talks have moved at glacial speed for the past decade. The latest restructuring proposal was unveiled during a meeting in July. When no decision was made then, a new meeting was scheduled for September, but it was put-off until this week.

By the meeting’s end, the chiefs pledged to keep on with talks later this month after consulting with their councils, but no consensus had yet been found on outstanding concerns.

Notably absent was Mike Smith, chief of the Kwanlin Dun, who was away on business in Calgary. The Kwanlin Dun is the largest of Yukon’s First Nations, and are not part of the CYFN.

During the July meeting, Smith made disparaging remarks about the reform plans, saying it sounded so tepid it would fail to inspire members.

Joe Linklater, chief of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, said he would wait and see how the new organization fares before signing up. His First Nation left the organization in November in 2008 over concerns that they were not being adequately consulted about political lobbying being done in Ottawa by Carvill and his staff.

Hammond Dick, chief of the Kaska Tribal Council, sounded more upbeat about the possibility of Kaska joining the fold. Representatives from the Gwitchin Tribal Council were not present.

Faultlines run between First Nations with land claims and those without. Currently, most of the talk around the CYFN table has to do with self-governing First Nations receiving more money from Ottawa, complained Chief David Johnny with the White River First Nation.

For the council to be more representative, it should have an executive officer dedicated to helping First Nations without land claims, he said, echoing a similar call made by Dick.

Changes are already afoot. The council no longer has an executive director, “and I don’t know if there’ll be another one,” said Carvill.

Ed Schultz, who held the job until January, has been shuffled into a new position that focuses on education reform. The decision was partly made for financial reasons, said Carvill. It also partly had to do with politics.

As for his title, “it doesn’t matter to me one way or another,” Carvill said in an interview. “It’s just a title.”

Contact John Thompson at


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

Just Posted

Diane McLeod-McKay, Yukon’s Ombudsman and information and privacy commissioner, filed a petition on Dec. 11 after her office was barred from accessing documents related to a child and family services case. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon government rejects Ombudsman requests for documentation filed to Supreme Court

Diane McLeod-McKay filed a petition on Dec. 11 after requests for documents were barred

Buffalo Sabres center Dylan Cozens, left, celebrates his first NHL goal with defenceman Rasmus Ristolainen during the second period of a game against the Washington Capitals on Jan. 22 in Washington. (Nick Wass/AP)
Cozens notches first NHL goal in loss to Capitals

The Yukoner potted his first tally at 10:43 of the second period on Jan. 22

Rodney and Ekaterina Baker in an undated photo from social media. The couple has been ticketed and charged under the Yukon’s <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> for breaking isolation requirements in order to sneak into a vaccine clinic and receive Moderna vaccine doses in Beaver Creek. (Facebook/Submitted)
Former CEO of Great Canadian Gaming, actress charged after flying to Beaver Creek for COVID-19 vaccine

Rod Baker and Ekaterina Baker were charged with two CEMA violations each

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Are they coming?

One of COVID-19’s big economic questions is whether it will prompt a… Continue reading

Yukon MP Larry Bagnell, along with Yukon health and education delegates, announce a new medical research initiative via a Zoom conference on Jan. 21. (Screen shot)
New medical research unit at Yukon University launched

The SPOR SUPPORT Unit will implement patient-first research practices

The bus stop at the corner of Industrial and Jasper Road in Whitehorse on Jan. 25. The stop will be moved approximately 80 metres closer to Quartz Road. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
UPDATED: Industrial Road bus stop to be relocated

The city has postponed the move indefinitely

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police detachment in Faro photgraphed in 2016. Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old building currently accommodating officers. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Faro RCMP tagged for new detachment

Faro will receive a new RCMP detachment in 2022, replacing the decades-old… Continue reading

In a Jan. 18 announcement, the Yukon government said the shingles vaccine is now being publicly funded for Yukoners between age 65 and 70, while the HPV vaccine program has been expanded to all Yukoners up to and including age 26. (1213rf.com)
Changes made to shingles, HPV vaccine programs

Pharmacists in the Yukon can now provide the shingles vaccine and the… Continue reading

Parking attendant Const. Ouellet puts a parking ticket on the windshield of a vehicle in downtown Whitehorse on Dec. 6, 2018. The City of Whitehorse is hoping to write of nearly $300,000 in outstanding fees, bylaw fines and court fees, $20,225 of which is attributed to parking fines issued to non-Yukon license plates. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City of Whitehorse could write off nearly $300,000

The City of Whitehorse could write off $294,345 in outstanding fees, bylaw… Continue reading

Grants available to address gender-based violence

Organizations could receive up to $200,000

In this illustration, artist-journalist Charles Fripp reveals the human side of tragedy on the Stikine trail to the Klondike in 1898. A man chases his partner around the tent with an axe, while a third man follows, attempting to intervene. (The Daily Graphic/July 27, 1898)
History Hunter: Charles Fripp — gold rush artist

The Alaskan coastal town of Wrangell was ill-equipped for the tide of… Continue reading

A man walks passed the polling place sign at city hall in Whitehorse on Oct. 18, 2018. While Whitehorse Mayor Dan Curtis is now setting his sights on the upcoming territorial election, other members of council are still pondering their election plans for the coming year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Councillors undecided on election plans

Municipal vote set for Oct. 21

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decicions made by Whitehorse city council this week.

Most Read