Yukon chiefs to talk money in Ottawa

While the trip is, technically, for the Assembly of First Nations’ special chiefs assembly, the territory’s aboriginal leaders hope to have time with John Duncan, minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.

Yukon First Nation chiefs are in Ottawa this week, hoping to stop a plan they say will subvert their final agreements.

While the trip is, technically, for the Assembly of First Nations’ special chiefs assembly, the territory’s aboriginal leaders hope to have time with John Duncan, minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. They want to discuss a new national scheme being planned for money transfers, including those flowing to Yukon’s self-governing First Nations.

“It really undermines our agreements,” Math’ieya Alatini, chief of the Kluane First Nation, said on Monday.

The new “fiscal harmonization policy” is still being drafted, but it boasts fair transfers without the need for negotiations. It would be based on formulas rather than discussions with the individual aboriginal governments, Alatini said.

“They’re saying negotiations are going to cost too much,” she added. “So instead, we’ll just be a tier-two-level Indian Act band by being formula-driven?

“Why would we accept this policy when we have this agreement that was already signed off – that we negotiated for 30 years to get – that says we will negotiate based on needs, looking at what it really requires to be self-governing.

“It is constitutionally expected for Canada to negotiate our financial transfer arrangements with us.”

Along with switching to some sort of formula – likely based on citizen counts like the Indian Act’s policy – Ottawa’s new plan could also change the length of term for each transfer agreement, said Alatini.

Currently, Yukon negotiations are supposed to occur every five years. This new policy could change that to every 10 years, Alatini added.

While the territory’s chiefs aren’t sure how the new policy will be enforced, they are considering all their options.

“I think the enforceability of it ends up being a legal question,” Alatini said. “If we don’t accept it, if we don’t sign on to it, then there may be legal recourse that we have for breaches of our agreements.”

The Assembly of First Nations’ chiefs meeting is scheduled to run from Tuesday until Thursday this week.

The territory’s aboriginal leaders also hope to have a meeting with Joe Oliver, the minister of Natural Resources, while they are in the nation’s capital to talk about the Alaska Highway pipeline project. The Assembly of First Nations’ chiefs meeting is scheduled to run from Tuesday until Thursday this week.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at roxannes@yukon-news.com