Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

DEBATING SERIOUS ISSUES – Premier Darrell Pasloski, Liberal Leader Sandy Silver and NDP Leader Liz Hanson are seen left to right at Thursday evening’s Territorial Leader Candidates Forum at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre. The packed event was broadcast territory-wide on CHON-FM.

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

CANDIDATES SPEAK – Grand Chief Peter Johnston of the Council of Yukon First Nations made brief remarks before the three party leaders took questions about issues of importance to Yukon First Nations Thursday night at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre.

Aboriginal leader presses colonialism, reconciliation

He wanted to know about reconciliation.

By Sidney Cohen on October 21, 2016

He wanted to know about reconciliation.

“I want to know how it’s going to address colonialism, how it’s going to address genocide, how it’s going to address forced relocation, how it’s going to address residential school, how it’s going to address integration and assimilation.”

Mike Smith, Assembly of First Nations regional chief and chair of Tagish Nation, put this question to the three party leaders at the Council of Yukon First Nations’ Territorial Leader Candidates Forum Thursday night at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

“You don’t have to answer it tonight, I want you to think about it,” said Smith.

But the leaders of the Yukon Party, the Yukon NDP and the Yukon Liberal Party did answer it, along with many others on issues of importance to First Nations peoples, and all Yukoners.

Liberal Leader Sandy Silver was the first to respond to Smith’s question.

The Liberal candidates will be an “extremely important part” of the reconciliation process in the Yukon, he said.

“They are fierce and responsive and good people that want to work on reconciliation first and foremost.”

Liz Hanson, the leader of the NDP, said reconciliation is a process through which their are no short cuts.

“We deeply believe that it’s more than programs … it’s about how we change inside and how we unlearn what we thought was our history.”

Premier Darrell Pasloski of the Yukon Party pointed to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s (TRC’s) Calls to Action – 94 recommendations to redress harms caused by colonialism, government assimilation policies and the residential school system.

He said when the Calls to Action came out, he asked his government to look at the work that had already been done and submit a report to First Nation leaders.

“Reconciliation really needs to be led, I believe, by First Nations people, and supported by public government,” said Pasloski.

That’s why the Yukon Party would commit $3.5 million, if re-elected, to “assist First Nations as they come forward with the programs, coming forward with a plan to help us move forward and raise that awareness of reconciliation,” he said.

Chief Steve Smith of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations took issue with Pasloski’s reference to the Yukon government as the “public government.”

“It’s a divisive term,” he said in comments to media after the forum.

“It separates out First Nation people. We are a part of the Yukon and so to say that you only represent public government when it comes to certain positions is counterproductive to the 25 per cent aboriginal people that live and work in the Yukon.”

First Nations people aren’t merely a “special interest group” to be represented by leaders like himself, said Smith, but an economic and cultural force that was here first and isn’t going anywhere.

“We’ve invested almost $60 million of our land claim settlement dollars as a whole … into the territory,” he said.

“We’re investors, we’re people who want to make up and take our rightful place in a true partnership with all Yukoners and trying to make the Yukon a better place for everybody.”

Though he wouldn’t endorse a candidate outright, Smith said Silver has been engaged with First Nations communities for the past five years, and that Hanson too, has experience working with First Nations.

“Those two candidates are certainly the ones who are more in tune with where I think First Nations as a whole want to go,” he said.

For nearly two and a half hours, the party leaders were asked about the plans for involving First Nations leaders in territorial budget-making, for retaining teachers in the communities, for affordable housing and protecting the environment.

Questions came from the Council of Yukon First Nations (CYFN), audience members, and from people in the communities through Facebook.

Early in the night, the parties were asked how they would implement final and self-government agreements to improve life for all Yukoners.

Hanson said the NDP would work on developing local economies in the communities.

Pasloski called the agreements “roadmaps to reconciliation,” and said that the Yukon is much further ahead today than it was five years ago.

The Yukon Party, Pasloski said, wants to open an office in Ottawa with CYFN so the two orders of government could jointly lobby the federal government. It also wants Yukon First Nations to have access to federal funds designated to “on-reserve” First Nations.

Silver said the Yukon Liberal party believes the Yukon government’s relationship with First Nations is its most important relationship.

“Yukon First Nations are integral partners in creating our economy,” he said, and also in preserving the environment.

For these reasons a Liberal government would protect the Peel Watershed, as per the original land use plan, support First Nations in administration of justice negotiations, and assist First Nations in registering land.

Silver also vowed to hold the Yukon Forum (the meeting of the premier and First Nations leaders) four times a year, or as often as desired by First Nations leaders.

The Pasloski government has held Yukon Forums once every other year since 2012.

“We don’t need to litigate, we need to work together,” said Silver.

Representing the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, Adeline Webber said her group was desperately underfunded and asked how the candidates would support First Nations women in the territory.

Pasloski answered first and said he has three daughters and can’t imagine the pain experienced by those who have lost loved ones to violence.

He noted his party’s promise to double funding to the Yukon Aboriginal Women’s Council, Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle and the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society.

Silver said “there is no best jurisdiction in Canada when it comes to protection of women who have been sexually assaulted,” but that he wants to make it better in the Yukon.

NDP MLA Lois Moorcroft worked to get support in the legislature for the national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, said Hanson.

“It’s good to hear the Yukon Party saying they’re going to put more money into this, we have had that commitment for years,” she said.

The Yukon government’s Women’s Directorate was established under an NDP government, she said, and an NDP government would ensure women’s groups are well represented and well supported today.

One of the night’s final questions circled back to reconciliation. How would the candidates implement the Calls to Action in the Yukon?

The premier said it was important that “the horrors of the past” are acknowledged and that children learn about them, so they aren’t repeated.

He stressed again that his government would support First Nations, but that they should lead the way toward reconciliation.

“I firmly believe that reconciliation, there isn’t a beginning and end, this should become a process that just becomes a part of who we are,” he said.

Silver said Canada is at the beginning of a healing process and the Liberals want to work with First Nations governments and Ottawa to implement the Calls to Action, specifically by closing gaps in the delivery of services.

He said he would build a monument for residential school students and build healing centres in the communities.

Hanson said she fundamentally disagrees with Pasloski’s view that First Nations should be in charge of reconciliation.

“First Nations are not responsible for colonialism, they’re not responsible for establishing residential schools,” she said.

“It’s like blaming the victims.”

The Yukon government has a responsibility to strengthen child care, education and parenting programs and to reform the child welfare system to keep children in their families and communities, she added.

“It is not the responsibility of First Nations to take it on, on their own.”

Comments (19)

Up 0 Down 0

Arturs on Oct 27, 2016 at 7:36 pm

Well, we don't have to think back too far in remembering Harper being asked where a public inquiry into the missing or murdered aboriginal women's file was on his Government's priority list. His reply was, " It's not an item that is high on our radar." No Governments under him took up the cry "hey we need this" especially if they were Conservative but, they could have.

Up 11 Down 19

ProScience Greenie on Oct 26, 2016 at 11:02 am

It seems uninformed rednecks are not the only ones that can be at times racist. We need less racism and bigotry, not more, if we want to move forward into a better and fairer world.
Activists sometimes need to look in the mirror and ask if they represent all the people they claim to speak for or just a small like-minded subset.
We would all be better off if we took a low cost DNA test to tell us where on this planet our ancestors really came from. It is informative and even humbling to do so. You don't have to like who and what your ancestors were but you do have to acknowledge it.

Up 12 Down 13

Duane Gastant' Aucoin on Oct 25, 2016 at 7:09 pm

@ Just Sayin...merci for pointing out my Acadian heritage because their history is a great example that we should be following today. My father's family immigrated to their new home from France in 1640. When they got here they recognised & respected the Mi'kmaq as the original owners of the land. The Mi'kmaq in turn helped the Acadians survive in their new home. This relationship of mutual respect & cooperation is what's needed here in the Yukon. It's the same vision that is in the Final Agreements and we can reach this by finally putting away the politics of division & start working together for the good of all.

Up 21 Down 25

DGA speaks the Truth on Oct 25, 2016 at 10:34 am

Duane G A speaks the truth. I have never in all my years had someone sum up just exactly what FNs are up against in the Yukon.
All you misinformed types (on purpose or otherwise) should take the time to read and think about his words. YFNs don't want all the pie they just want their share. Rest assured they will get it, the question is, do we get it with the spirit of cooperation or are we going to get it dragging you all kicking and screaming?

Up 23 Down 21

Just Sayin' on Oct 24, 2016 at 7:11 pm

Mr. Aucoin, does the native portion blame the french portion of you for what happened to the FN?

Up 13 Down 21

June Jackson on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:39 pm

To: Perspective: "Volkswagon's settlement for an emissions scandal with the US government alone was 14.7 Billion Dollars" So...in saying this.. you are confirming that myself and other posters here are correct? It IS all about the money?

Up 34 Down 26

Duane Gastant' Aucoin on Oct 24, 2016 at 3:18 pm

It seems all the anonymous red necks have moved from CBC, because they no longer allow anonymous postings, over to the Whitehorse Star website. I suspect most of these are Yukon Party supporters as I've been told this is how they talk behind closed doors. And this is the problem here in the Yukon are the uninformed racists views of many in power & those who vote for them! That is why Yukon First Nations held this forum to inform not just our YFN voters but all Yukoners what the parties plans are with building the nation to nation relationship that our Final Agreements were all about. These Agreements are modern treaties between the original owners of these lands and the newcomers.
The British Crown in the Royal Proclamation of 1763 decreed that treaties must be signed with the First Nations of this land now called Canada. The conditions for the First Nations lands entering Canada are laid out in these treaties. (Though with many of the older treaties what was written down is not what was agreed to) Luckily here in the Yukon we all agreed on the wording before it was signed. The problem though lies with what was the original "spirit & intent" of those words are repeatedly ignored or denied by this current Yukon Party government. They continually interpret the words in the narrowest way possible to meet the bare minimum of the letter. The Yukon Party's unwillingness to negotiate a common understanding on the original spirit & intent of the Final Agreements is why we are constantly being forced to take our cases to the courts to have them impose judgements that agree with our interpretation and not the Yukon Party's narrow arguments.
The Agreements recognised our Yukon First Nation ownership of our lands and that we restricted this exercise of ownership to only 10% of our original lands. The other 90% we agreed to continue to have a voice and say in their planning & development through the various Boards & Commissions as laid out in the Agreements. Never did we agree to give over 90% of our lands to a "public government" to let them do whatever they want as Pasloski seems to think. It's time for us Yukoners to choose to end this regime of confrontation & division & vote in a government that will be willing to work with Yukon First Nations for the good of all Yukoners!

Up 65 Down 3

canon2000 on Oct 24, 2016 at 11:21 am

My grandmother went to res school, my mom went, I also did time there. As a survivor I just wish we could make the future better for our kids and move on. I don't like to drag this on and on. I have been through all that one can be put through and I just want to move on. Let's make life better for our kids. Too many people making money off our grievance and keep opening up my wounds. Please let's just put this behind us, how long does healing take? I want to look forward, not back.

Up 22 Down 24

Perspective on Oct 24, 2016 at 1:04 am

June J and JC, how limited your world view must be.

First, think of this, when a business does a crappy job providing a service, then you expect them to fix it, do it better and make it right. Government should stand by that same principle. Residential school, intentional assimilation or as some people think, helping FN's, in either case, no matter how you look at it, a crappy job was done. Consequently, people (FN people) have lost lives, culture, community, language and the list goes on. It's now fair to demand government to fix, do better and make it right.

Second, you quote the "golden goose and mind boggling" money paid. Get a reality check, in perspective, Volkswagon's settlement for an emissions scandal with the US government alone was 14.7 Billion Dollars. How is an emissions scandal worth (using your numbers of 1.9 Billion) 7 times the cost of the wrongs to First Nations in Canada.

Quote numbers and make as many comments as you want, but please also do some homework on your world views and perspectives.

Up 27 Down 9

Doug on Oct 23, 2016 at 7:41 pm

My head hurts....I look forward to the day I never have to read stories like this anymore. But sadly, I don't think I will see that day...

Up 24 Down 19

Rod on Oct 23, 2016 at 11:02 am

I don't think anyone in their right mind is going to lable you for that comment! That's spot on! "Reconciliation"lol this will go on forever like you said....or until we get a decent government!

Up 44 Down 4

Time to move on in life and work on new chapters in life on Oct 23, 2016 at 8:44 am

We all know the history and the bad things that were done, and nothing can remove that from history.
But continually to dwell on it only continues the pain of time and experience.
We all as individuals had terrible things in our life but we have to move on and create a better future for our kids.
Building a brighter future for our children of tomorrow.
A great group of First Nations people made that statement.
We all should live by that incredible statement.

Up 12 Down 32

Joyce Capewell on Oct 23, 2016 at 6:15 am

Reconciliation also does not come by 'colonialism white supremacy' dictatorship terms. Furthermore the prosperity of a colonialism nation (including taxpayers) majorly generated and continues from 'stolen' Indian land - directly or indirectly.

Up 29 Down 16

June Jackson on Oct 23, 2016 at 12:06 am

To JC: " At least $1.9 billion for “common experience” payments for former students who lived at the schools;
o A process to allow those who suffered sexual or serious physical abuses, or other abuses that caused serious psychological effects, to get between $5,000 and $275,000 each—or more money if they can also show a loss of income; and
o To benefit former students and families: $125 million to the Aboriginal Healing Foundation for healing programmes; $60 million for truth and reconciliation to document and preserve the experiences of survivors; and $20 million for national and community commemorative projects. " http://www.residentialschoolsettlement.ca/detailed_notice.pdf

This is only a partial account of the money spent. There is so much money involved it is mind boggling. Apologies have been made, money has been paid out, a "get out of jail free" card has been accepted in the courts.

I can only conclude that your comments are correct.

Up 39 Down 12

drum on Oct 22, 2016 at 3:27 pm

There will never be any moving forward if people cannot let go of the past and realise how good things can be and are NOW!!!!
It is a cash cow and Trudeau has promised the earth and everything they want to First Nations.
Our great, great grand children will still be hearing about this and paying for mistakes made in the past. By that time there will be no one alive that was actually affected by any of the mistakes made by the Canadian Government and the Churches.
I do not in anyway challenge the suffering that happened but it has happened to everyone in the world in the past and some people have got stronger and put it behind them.

Up 35 Down 18

Just Say'in on Oct 22, 2016 at 2:49 pm

"Chief Steve Smith of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations took issue with Pasloski’s reference to the Yukon government as the “public government.”

Then when speaking to the first nations what is it to be referred to as? They were the ones who wanted Self Government in other words for them only. Yet somehow or another I am supposed to accept that they can still vote for my representative.

Worse yet they vote in a large portion of the MLA's in primarily First Nation ridings who then negotiate with the First Nation Government on my behalf.
Should I not be able to vote for their representative if they can still vote for mine???

Up 32 Down 17

Just Say'in on Oct 22, 2016 at 2:39 pm

Just hold it a minute Mike Smith. I am getting tired of hearing how you spending my Tax Dollars should somehow be commended by me. You didn't invest your money. That money came from the Federal Government and that money came from the people. Bring down the rhetoric a little big guy.

Up 34 Down 14

ProScience Greenie on Oct 22, 2016 at 5:33 am

Where will all this be in a few more generations when Yukon people are more and more of mixed ancestry? There are important reconciliation issues to address now but much of what is being talked about is not sustainable and ignores many 'moose in the room' issues.

Up 53 Down 31

jc on Oct 21, 2016 at 5:57 pm

Excuse me for saying this, and I know I will be labeled, but I have to say it because of my years of knowledge and experience, there will never be "reconciliation", simply because the FN don't want it. To them it would be killing the golden goose that gives them so much taxpayers budget money every year. There, I've said it. At least let me have my say. Now cuss me out for it because at my age, I don't care anymore.

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