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Liard First Nation still under third-party management

Yukon’s Liard First Nation is still under third-party management, and lands manager Sarah Newton says people are struggling more than ever in the community of Watson Lake.
The Liard First Nation office in Watson Lake, Yukon, has been effectively closed since January. The First Nation was placed under third-party management this fall. (Philippe Morin/CBC)

Yukon’s Liard First Nation is still under third party management and its land manager, Sarah Newton, says people are struggling more than ever in the community of Watson Lake.

Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada held a public meeting last week in Watson Lake.

On November 4 in Whithorse, Newton spoke at a rally against the use of natural gas and fracking.

Newton told the crowd she confronted federal bureaucrats, saying the First Nation should not have to pay the $708,000 debt to the federal government.

“I stood up and said… it doesn’t matter how much money you think we owe you. You’ve stolen way more from this traditional territory in the trees, in the water, in the minerals, in the oil and gas, and none of this stuff has ended up benefiting the community as of yet.”

I stood up and said… it doesn’t matter how much money you think we owe you. You’ve stolen way more from this traditional territory in the trees, in the water, in the minerals, in the oil and gas, and none of this stuff has ended up benefiting the community as of yet-Sarah Newton, lands manager of Liard First Nation

The federal government appointed a third-party manager earlier this fall after the Liard First Nation abruptly laid off nearly 40 employees in January, saying it could no longer pay its employees.

The First Nation also owes money to various businesses. A strategy for repayment is part of third-party management. 

Newton says people in Watson Lake are struggling more than ever.

“You can see the poverty,” she says. “It’s really intense. It’s like black and white between the municipality and the villages, and I’ve never felt like I can stand up and say that in public, but now I do.”

The Liard First Nation has not met the requirements for transparency and accountability under federal rules.

The federal government says it owes more than $700,000.

Chief and Council of the Liard First nation have declined interviews.