The new Yukon Police Council is supposed to help mend the relationship between First Nations, the RCMP and the Department of Justice.
But it’s off to a bad start.
When the government recently named six members to the new council, the Council of Yukon First Nations was shocked to hear that only one of the three nominations it had submitted actually made it onto the council.
“I can’t comment on how CYFN or Ruth (Massie) understood the difference between nominating and appointing,” said Justice Minister Mike Nixon on Wednesday.
“But at the end of the day, people put their names forth, as from our initial advertisement that went out, and everyone had the same right to apply and believe that they were going to be accepted onto this board.”
But First Nations believed they had more authority to nominate three members.
The Council of Yukon First Nations’ justice manager co-chaired the police review that eventually established the police council.
The terms of reference for the police council said: “The minister will appoint three members from persons nominated by Yukon First Nations.”
Nixon said three of the council members were nominated by First Nations – Lisa Anderson, Doris McLean and David LeBarge.
But CYFN will only confirm Anderson’s nomination as one of its three.
It said McLean and LeBarge were not.
Nixon said McLean was nominated by the Carcross/Tagish First Nation and LeBarge was nominated by the Kwanlin Dun First Nation.
CYFN said it conducted a rigorous selection process after the police review wrapped up and it was told to put forward three names for the new council.
Each First Nation government – including the Kwanlin Dun, which does not belong to CYFN – asked its community to put forward applications.
Those were then submitted to the CYFN, with a letter of support from the individual’s First Nation, an official from Kwanlin Dun’s justice department said.
More than 40 applications were submitted and CYFN narrowed it down to three, said Grand Chief Ruth Massie. Those names were approved through a leadership resolution and then forwarded to Nixon.
Massie then asked Nixon’s office if her council could send through the remaining applicants for possible consideration for the government’s three members.
That was how LeBarge and McLean’s applications made their way to Nixon’s desk, complete with their letters of support from their own First Nations.
But neither the Council of Yukon First Nations or Nixon’s office will release any of the communication involved in the process.
All the applications that came through the Council of Yukon First Nations got thrown into one big pot, along with those from the Department of Justice, said Massie.
“I don’t think they considered the value of the submissions from CYFN,” she said.
“With our continued involvement over a two-year period, we surmised that we were getting three and Yukon government … would make the final approval, but we didn’t expect them to replace our approved nominees.
“It was our expectation, in that formal process, that once we submitted our recommendations, they would be adhered to. Why would you not adhere to a decision from 10 self-governing First Nation chiefs?”
“We participated in this whole process in good faith,” said a Kwanlin Dun justice official. “We don’t want the police council to start off without our support, but we expected our nominations to be respected.”
“I’ve spoken with Ruth Massie,” said Nixon. “We’re still in communication about the definition of ‘appoint’ and ‘nominate,’ but I told Ruth, I said, ‘We’ve got a relationship with CYFN and the government and that’s a relationship that we want to foster and expand upon.’
“I commend the Council of Yukon First Nations for going above and beyond to put forth their nominations, but it was all nominations. Any interest group could have done the same thing that the Council of Yukon First Nations did. Anyone could have taken that approach.
“At the end of the day, the most important thing was getting the six best people for this committee. We followed the process. We’ve got six exceptional, exceptional people. We’ve got a great representation of Yukoners that’s balanced. I met 10 of the 42 people that applied to this, and I am 110 per cent confident that we’ve got the six best people for this committee to move with it.”
The council also includes the former public service commissioner, Patricia Daws, former RCMP officer William Klassen, and former Haines Junction official Michael Riseborough. It is scheduled to meet for a weekend-long orientation at the end of March.
The council is chaired by the deputy minister of Justice, Dennis Cooley.
From here on, it will be up to the council to decide on how to engage with the public, said Nixon.
“The council isn’t intended to be a complaints department on an individual basis,” he said. “But having said that, there’s a great potential that this council is going to move around through the territory and meet with different communities and that’s a time where input can be provided.”
The council’s job is to communicate between the police and the government and the public, said Nixon. It’s will also make recommendations to the RCMP.
“The recommendations aren’t binding but we have to take into consideration the legwork that they’ve done,” he said. “You really have to take them seriously. And we’re looking forward to the recommendations that they do bring forward, but there’s nothing written formerly that their recommendations are set in stone.”
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