CARCROSS, YT, July 18, 2012 /CNW/ - Former Yukon chief negotiator Barry Stuart has expressed concern about the federal government's refusal to negotiate with the Carcross/Tagish First Nation (C/TFN), which would effectively defund the First Nation. The Harper government has threatened to do so unless the First Nation signs an unfair, unequal and non-negotiable funding agreement.
The former chief negotiator, who has spent 35 years focused on conflict resolution, much of it in Yukon, said: "I am very saddened by what is happening."
The C/TFN is one of 11 self-governing First Nations in the Yukon and one of 19 self-governing First Nations in the country. It achieved this status in 2006, through the constitutionally-mandated Self-Government Agreement. C/TFN's Financial Transfer Agreement expired on March 31, 2012. Federal negotiators came to the table without a mandate to provide comparable funding for essential programs and services. The federal government demanded the C/TFN sign or see its funding withdrawn. Stuart is concerned that what the government is doing will only perpetuate a divide between First Nations and Canada.
"I hoped that we were opening a new relationship, based on constructive partnerships, instead of relationships based on conflict," said Stuart. "Inadequate funding sets the Carcross/Tagish First Nation up to fail. I do not believe that the Prime Minister or the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs are acutely aware of the ramifications of the position they have taken. It's hard for me to believe they would respond to new governments in this way."
The C/TFN expressed its happiness that an esteemed negotiator like Stuart has stepped forward to tell the Harper government to come back to the negotiating table with a mandate of fair and equitable funding, so the First Nation can continue to provide essential programs and services to its people.
"Barry Stuart understands the importance of self-governing First Nations," said C/TFN Kha Shade Heni (Chief) Danny Cresswell. "He understands that the Government of Canada must see us as an equal in government-to-government negotiations just as it does provinces and territories."
The C/TFN is a self-governing Yukon First Nation located in the southwest of Yukon. Their territory surrounds a portion of the Klondike highway that runs from Skagway, Alaska to Whitehorse, Yukon, including the Nares River Bridge, which is a vital gateway for Yukon commerce and trade.
The Carcross/Tagish First Nation is mandated to protect the environment, health, education and aboriginal rights of its people; to continue to preserve and protect its culture and traditions; to protect and develop its natural resources and strengthen its economy and the government of the Carcross/Tagish First Nation for future generations.
For further information:
Beverly M. Sembsmoen Phone: (867) 821-4251 extension 8210