Whitehorse Daily Star

First Nation gets border patrol duties

The Liard First Nation (LFN) picked up the contract for COVID-19 highway border patrols near Watson Lake earlier this month.

By Gabrielle Plonka on November 18, 2020

The Liard First Nation (LFN) picked up the contract for COVID-19 highway border patrols near Watson Lake earlier this month.

“It’s something we feel we should do – it’s our traditional territory, so we should be protecting that, and ensuring that the people of the community, our nation and the Yukon are informed of what’s going on at the border,” Liard First Nation Chief Stephen Charlie told the Star this morning.

Two of the First Nation’s development corporations – First Kaska and Iyon Kechika Contracting – are splitting responsibility for the Yukon’s two southern borders at Junction 37 and the Watson Lake scales on the Alaska Highway.

The border checkpoints are being patrolled by officers from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., seven days a week. Those hours are set by the Yukon government.

People crossing the border from jurisdictions outside B.C. and the North are required to submit a declaration and a plan for self-isolation with border officers. Those who cross outside patrol hours are required to self-submit their declaration.

John Streicker, the minister of Community Services, said Monday that new border staff will be supported by Civil Emergency Measures Act (CEMA) officers and the RCMP. This includes de-escalation training.

The minister said the First Nation expressed interest in patrolling its own territory in the late summer.

“There’s an opportunity here for the First Nation to do the work, and we’re happy that they’ve taken that opportunity,” Streicker said.

The contract for southern border patrol was previously held by Northern Enviro Services, a contractor local to Watson Lake. 

Both Northern Enviro Services and the First Kaska development corporation say the Yukon government hastily transferred the contract without advance communication.

A letter from Lorena Funnell of Northern Enviro Services on Oct. 28 said her company was blindsided by the sudden loss of the contract, which it learned about second-hand. The letter is addressed to Ranj Pillai, the minister of Economic Development. 

Funnell said a staffer at the Watson Lake scales was offered a job from Iyon Kechika Contracting while on shift that day. The employee was informed that Iyon Kechika was taking over patrol of the scales at the end of the month.

“I have no knowledge of our contract not being extended so I was totally blindsided by this information,” Funnell said.

Funnell adds at the end of the letter that Northern Enviro Services “can not sustain the additional financial loss losing this contract would cause us.”

Devin Brodhagen, the general manager of First Kaska, said he was given two days’ notice to pick up the patrol of Junction 37.

“It was a panic rush two days prior – we had to go and hire a crew and we had no indication of what the previous officers’ obligations were, or what their contract was,” Brodhagen said.

He said the corporation is still “ironing out the wrinkles” of border patrol.

Brodhagen noted that some previous patrol officers lost their jobs due to the contract shift.

Had earlier notice been given, staff could have been rehired onto the new contract.

“If we had the ability to negotiate, we more than gladly would have brought on the officers that were currently stationed there,” Brodhagen said.

The Liard First Nation will receive $584,000 to patrol the two checkpoints. According to Matthew Cameron, a cabinet spokesperson, the First Nation was issued a five-month contract ending in March 2021.

The previous six-month contract with Northern Enviro Services cost $374,000, Cameron said. During that time, the Yukon government also stationed nine full-time employees per day.

The government is continuously monitoring the need for surveillance changes, Cameron added.

“We are considering a variety of options at Yukon’s southern border, including video cameras and random check stops,” Cameron said. 

“We will continue to review the situation to protect the health and safety of Yukoners.​”

Comments (24)

Up 15 Down 1

Sheepchaser on Nov 23, 2020 at 2:28 pm

Some decent points made here about balance vs discrimination. My apartheid question stands though. It really worries me. Seem like a whole lot of have-nots getting divided against themselves by race and outrage. Meanwhile, the haves seem to skate by. I wonder how much longer the majority will play these games fighting over the crumbs before they resolve themselves to create real system change. All it would take is one brave voice respected on both sides of the racial divide. Is there such a voice in the Yukon?

Up 17 Down 1

DMZ on Nov 23, 2020 at 2:22 pm

In relation to the statement that the Alaska Highway goes "through" LFN, none of the land claims could cross highways, I thought?
I keep hearing about First Nations stopping vehicles as they near their territory, and I don't get it. Basically relevant to me in some confusion between LFN getting a border control contract and the implication that it has something to do with their territory, as opposed to a business enterprise. Meaning, I am confused.

Up 16 Down 19

YukonMax on Nov 23, 2020 at 6:44 am

I find this appropriate. First Nation has a good supply of members who will only accept that kind of work. Make a lot of money on a very limited time. No commitments.

Up 9 Down 15

.44special on Nov 22, 2020 at 6:02 am

And no comments for the many out of territory employees coming in every month working at Silver-tip? They're taking your jobs...

Up 26 Down 6

Mike on Nov 21, 2020 at 12:58 pm

@Nope
Your ignorance towards facts and spewing fictional times on here makes me hope you are not one of our border protectors. As for your rant on the highway traveling right through kaska land again shows your ignorance as there is no registered land only land set aside which in fact does not make it yours. And finally every job for YTG goes up for tender so in fairness every contract company can bid on it but in this case First Kaska Development Corporation has a existing contract with YTG and so the responsibility of the contract for border watch was added. But short cuts for anybody should not be allowed as everyone has paid their dues and has every right to bid on it. Now back to school and learn before you comment 15000 yrs most unsubstantiated claim I've read in these comments

Up 19 Down 8

Josey Wales on Nov 21, 2020 at 12:27 pm

Wilf...no such thing as racism in reverse or reverse racism, only actual racism.
Those that think otherwise, are most certainly racists.

OJ PSA.

Metric Palestinians patrolling Gaza...
I answer to no foreign agents claiming TL for SL, in this my country of Canada.

Up 41 Down 9

Wilf Carter on Nov 21, 2020 at 3:36 am

Wow Yukon government is doing a great job along with our MP of creating a racial divide between First Nations Yukoners and non First Nations people in Yukon.

This sure looks like racism in reverse.

Up 31 Down 7

Al on Nov 20, 2020 at 9:46 pm

@Nope
I am not sure what your point is. It is likely you are quite new to the history of Northern BC, Yukon and Eastern Alaska with respect to the Alcan Highway (commonly referred to as the Alaska Highway).

There are no land claims on the highway from Dawson Creek, BC to Fairbanks, AK. Various jurisdictions have ownership on segments of the highway. BC owns the highway from mile zero to mile 82.6, the Government of Canada owns the next segment (managed by Public Works) to mile 630. From 630 to mile 1016 the Yukon Government has ownership, and from 1016 to the Alaskan border it is the Canadian government (YTG provides on behalf of the Government of Canada maintenance of this last portion). This whole route is commonly referred to as the Alaska Highway corridor. To date there are no challenges to the current ownership's. In the mid 70's when there was talk of a pipeline running adjacent to the highway then there were interests being raised by First Nations in respect to that project, but not the highway corridor.

It remains unclear when the Kaska first established themselves in this area. Dating, by way of archaeological finds, have as yet not pin pointed a date or period. So your 15,000 years is suspect. Although I will cede that is a rather long period of occupancy.

Up 10 Down 39

Woodcutter on Nov 20, 2020 at 5:23 pm

Bark, bark goes the racists. Perhaps do us all a favor by moving away to a backward province of your choice would be in order.

Up 13 Down 19

Ray’s Sister on Nov 20, 2020 at 4:09 pm

It’s not racist! It’s merely preferential treatment based on the presumption of race. The government has a preferential hiring policy not a racist hiring policy. Just ask the government and the Yukon Employees Union. They will say the same thing.

Up 16 Down 56

Nope on Nov 20, 2020 at 3:07 pm

@Al
Have you ever seen a map? The Alaska Highway goes right through LFN who, incidentally have been there 15,000 years longer than the highway or any randomly drawn provincial/territorial border.

Up 57 Down 9

SheepChaser on Nov 20, 2020 at 10:56 am

At what point and by what measure do we assess the degree to which the Yukon is becoming an apartheid state? How does one figure that out? Open racially-based preferential access to government, economic activity and with lower expectations around performance...

Not sure, but it seems like a question worth asking.

Up 71 Down 12

Racist Contract on Nov 20, 2020 at 10:38 am

Sole-sourced contract based on the colour of their skin. So sick of the government colouring and promoting these racist lines in the Yukon. What about being competitive and getting the best value for ALL Yukoners?

Up 17 Down 45

The Real Just Sayin' on Nov 20, 2020 at 8:22 am

JustSayin' (the other one)... you really shouldn't be so dramatic. There are plenty of opportunities out there for those who work hard and are trying to get ahead. A group of FN people being hired to do a job is not preventing you from doing anything.

Up 36 Down 7

drum on Nov 19, 2020 at 8:56 pm

Are they qualified to do the job? That is all we want to know. Can they maintain the border 24/7 and ensure that all COVID-19 regulations and restrictions are maintained?

Up 56 Down 7

My Opinion on Nov 19, 2020 at 6:11 pm

The more I read about this the more it STINKS.

Up 100 Down 18

Al on Nov 19, 2020 at 1:39 pm

Hm, so let me see if I have this right. You take away a contract awarded to a Yukon firm based in Watson Lake and give it to an entity that in part is not even in the Yukon without tender? Because it is on their traditional lands?

I don't think so. Since when is the Alaska Highway part of their traditional territory? Gosh if it is then they should be responsible for upgrades and maintenance. Yup, fat chance that will happen. The awarding of this contract is wrong on so many fronts. You take it away from one company that is providing 24/7 service and give it to another with 12 hours, hm. Then we have the company who now is taking on the contract with zero skill sets or work force against a company that has proven itself, hm. We have Yukoner's who had a job now being laid off - because, hm.

What can one expect from a government that has no ethical values. I guess they are taking their cue from their buddies in Ottawa, hm.

Up 81 Down 11

comen sense on Nov 19, 2020 at 12:51 pm

The COs were doing it too during there busiest time at the start of hunting season. Now they're not busy - but no, give it to another group without it being tendered out and giving more to this group then the last for the same job. Yup, keep dividing the country Liberals.

Up 75 Down 6

Mike on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:58 am

My question would be, why would Stephen Charlie give Iyon Kitcheka any business opportunity whatsoever when it is a company in huge debt and First Kaska is a LFN Owned company with its own contracts with YTG and others. It is owned by Derek Lutz ,a councilor of LFN, which would be a conflict of interest and Iyon Kicheka has been stealing contracts off LFN since it opened.
This makes no sense to take a defunct company and partner it with a debt free company. This must be the advice of the numerous consultants Mr. Charlie has retained including one who has already run a DEV.Corp. into massive debt. 300g for three months for another consultant who was fired from her last job. Must be nice. Mr. Charlie thinks nobody is paying attention but after 4 years in 3rd party everyone's eyes are on LFN and its new band of leaders.

Up 56 Down 11

Yukonfun on Nov 19, 2020 at 11:18 am

N.E.S provided 24 hour boarder control.

Up 87 Down 10

Guncache on Nov 18, 2020 at 7:59 pm

Why does Liard First Nation get an extra $210,000 over the previous contractor? Something fishy here.

Up 71 Down 3

UMM on Nov 18, 2020 at 3:37 pm

So if you turn someone around, they can just drive through after 9pm?

Up 64 Down 14

Disgruntled Yukoner on Nov 18, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Racial segregation, the practice of restricting people to certain circumscribed areas of residence or to separate institutions (e.g., schools, churches) and facilities (parks, playgrounds, restaurants, restrooms) on the basis of race or alleged race. Leave that there for one to ponder.

Remember everyone is protected under the Charter of rights and Freedoms to move freely.

Up 88 Down 15

JustSayin' on Nov 18, 2020 at 2:31 pm

WOW! Sole source contract with tax payers funds. I can't stand this system anymore. Honestly, they have not hired people to complete the tasks, they have not illustrated the individuals are competent to complete the tasks associated with boarder patrol.. Take note Yukoners, the new way to do business is coming to the Yukon and if you are not indigenous, it does not include you.
No more opportunities for those who work hard, those who are trying to get ahead. f&k*.

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