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Yukon First Nations will make their displeasure known at polls, says outgoing grand chief

The Yukon Party's antagonism toward First Nations' governments will come back to bite it at the ballot box this year, predicts Ruth Massie.

Ruth Massie is leaving the post of CYFN grand chief at the end of the month

'Yukon First Nations are definitely paying attention. They'll look at the history of what has happened, and they'll look at their needs and their priorities going forward,' said Ruth Massie, whose term as Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief ends this month. (CBC)

The outgoing grand chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations believes the Yukon Party government will answer at the polls later this year for its antagonism towards First Nations.

Ruth Massie said the relationship with the Yukon government should be the most important one for First Nations. But she said under her six year tenure as grand chief, getting the Yukon government to respect its First Nations' counterparts has proven to be very difficult.

"We haven't seen eye-to-eye on several topics, and we've had to go the distance to make our point — including court," she said.

Massie points to Bill S-6, which amended Yukon's Environmental and Socio Economic Assessment Act (YESAA). 
The Yukon government was an enthusiastic supporter of the bill, and both former Prime Minister Stephen Harper and former Indian Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt have said the Yukon asked for the four contentious provisions that prompted a court challenge

Champagne and Aishihik chief Steve Smith, Little Salmon Carmacks chief Eric Fairclough, and Teslin Tlingit Council chief Carl Sidney launched a court challenge against Bill S-6, last October. It's currently on hold. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Massie said those changes to YESAA were unacceptable to First Nations, and threatened the integrity of the land claims agreements.

She predicted First Nations voters will make their displeasure known at the ballot box in this year's territorial election.

"For First Nations, [the] Yukon government crossed that bridge and we've taken note." 

Better relationship with federal government 

In contrast to the antagonism with the Yukon government, Massie said the relationship with the Liberal federal government is so far "very, very positive."

"I really find this current government is really making an effort to address our needs."

In last fall's federal election, CYFN urged its membership to vote "strategically", which meant a vote for the Liberals.

Massie said she wouldn't be surprised to see the same sort of movement at the territorial level.

"Yukon First Nations are definitely paying attention. They'll look at the history of what has happened, and they'll look at their needs and their priorities going forward."

Massie noted that the biggest challenge facing the next grand chief, Peter Johnston, will be to get the current Yukon government to treat First Nations governments as equals.

Johnston will be sworn in as grand chief at the CYFN general assembly at the end of June.

Massie said she plans to retire from public life. 

    

    

    
        

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