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Yukon First Nations and senator react to federal throne speech

Newly elected MP Brendan Hanley spoke for the first time in the House of Commons.
Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s MP, receives a standing ovation before his response to the speech from the throne on Nov. 23 in Ottawa. (Screengrab)

The federal government’s Nov. 23 speech from the throne was short on specific details for what programs could be coming to the North, but upcoming plans include money for affordable housing, reconciliation and climate change.

“Our Earth is in danger. From a warming Arctic to the increasing devastation of natural disasters, our land and our people need help. We must move the talk into action and adapt where we must,” said Gov. Gen. Mary Simon, who gave the speech in Inuktitut, French and English for the first time in history.

The throne speech lays out high-level priorities for the incoming government. Included in this sitting’s text is continuing the vaccination efforts and strengthening healthcare and mental health.

The speech also notes that the Housing Accelerator Fund will help municipalities build more supply and the First-Time Home Buyer’s Incentive and a new Rent-to-Own program could assist would-be homebuyers.

The government has also committed to the development of a “National Adaptation Strategy” to plan for natural disasters and weather changes from climate change.

Reconciliation was also a central theme.

Assembly of First Nations Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek said an Indigenous woman delivering the speech was a step forward. She highlighted renewed commitments to UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

“Yukon First Nations will be immediately served by commitments to the housing accelerator fund, to a homebuyers incentive, and to a rent-to-own policy. As Yukon First Nations continue to manage, and prepare to recover from, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we are facing a mental health and wellness crisis in our communities. Yukon First Nations require specific funding to address this mental health and wellness and community safety crisis, and we hope to see these commitments in the forthcoming federal budget,” she said.

Newly elected Yukon MP Brendan Hanley was chosen amongst Liberal MPs to reply to the speech in the House of Commons after it was delivered.

“Regardless of where we live in Canada as a northern country, we are all northerners at heart. We are a country that in his heart aspires for goodness, reaches for growth and looks to the better path. As we begin this parliament these are values we can never forget,” he told seated MPs.

Hanley was met by applause as he mentioned his former role as Chief Medical Officer of Health in the territory. He thanked federal health counterparts as well as regional leaders across the country who have been dealing directly with COVID-19.

Yukon Senator Pat Duncan was one of 11 independent senators who attended the speech in the Senate chambers.

“​​It just felt like I was at home and the North was there because we had Canada’s first Indigenous Governor General. To hear her deliver her speech in Inuktitut, it just felt so right,” she said.

Duncan said she was encouraged that the speech touched on issues of affordability, particularly on housing and climate change, which are both hitting the Yukon hard.

She also described oversights in the speech that she’d like to see addressed by the government – including potential for a basic income guarantee and a response to the opioid epidemic.

“It wasn’t mentioned in the throne speech. So if the Commons won’t move on it, then perhaps the Senate will,” she said.

Contact Haley Ritchie at