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Council of Yukon First Nations is advising citizens to 'vote strategically'

The Council of Yukon First Nations has taken the unusual step of directing aboriginal voters to a website on strategic voting, which recommends that Yukoners vote Liberal.

The CYFN is directing people to a website on strategic voting, which says to vote Liberal

CYFN Grand Chief Ruth Massie says Yukon chiefs are deeply unhappy with the treatment they've received from the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, so she's urging aboriginal voters to vote strategically. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

The Council of Yukon First Nations has taken an unexpected and significant step: it's directing citizens of First Nations to a website on how to vote strategically.

"This is an unusual step for the Yukon First Nation leadership to encourage citizens to consider the past performance of governments and those seeking election," a statement from the CYFN states.

"We believe we must vote strategically to ensure that we elect a supportive government."

CYFN Grand Chief Ruth Massie says Yukon chiefs are deeply unhappy with the treatment they've received from the Conservative government of Stephen Harper.

"They have done absolutely very little, if nothing, to assist us in the implementation of our agreements," Massie said.

"The Conservatives have not been very good to First Nations right across this country, and especially up here."

Yukon Conservative candidate Ryan Leef refused to comment.

Not the first endorsement by chiefs

Massie concedes that urging First Nations to follow the advice of a strategic voting website is essentially an endorsement of Liberal candidate Larry Bagnell, as the site advises Yukoners to vote Liberal in order to change the government in Ottawa.

But Massie says it's not the first time that Yukon chiefs have issued such an endorsement.

She says it happened 42 years ago, when an early predecessor of the CYFN, the Yukon Native Brotherhood, endorsed the Liberal party.

"Of course that was because we were trying to sign off our umbrella final agreement... to start our land claim process. And it worked," Massie says.

"I will say the Liberal party has always been very favourable to our agendas."

Massie says many First Nations voters have questions about which party to support. 

"We're saying to them, 'You can make a difference. Go to this site, read the material, read the articles, visit with the candidates. But get out and vote.'"

Massie says protecting their final agreements is an absolute priority. She says Yukon chiefs and First Nations have realized the power of their vote — and she says they will wield that power to protect their land claim agreements.

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