Transparency critical to reconciliation: Hanson

Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson asked the following question about transparency in Government of Yukon reconciliation negotiations with Yukon First Nations on Monday, May 2nd 2016:

Hanson (Whitehorse Centre): You know, there is one issue in which the Premier is clear. He says he will not be providing financial resources to help implement recommendations contained in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report; however, this year’s budget has over $2 million allocated for what the budget calls “reconciliation” with First Nation governments with a further $2 million for implementing the Kaska framework agreement — which are apparently linked to these reconciliation discussions. It would seem that the Premier is unclear on the concept of reconciliation. We are either spending money on reconciliation or these agreements are not really about reconciliation. When this question was raised in the past, the Premier refused to answer.

Mr. Speaker, what are the end goals of the Kaska framework agreement and the reconciliation agreement discussions with unsigned Yukon First Nations?

Premier Darrell Pasloski (Mountainview): This government is proud to have signed a framework agreement on reconciliation with the Kaska — something that the NDP failed to do and something that the Liberals failed to do. People for 30 years have tried to reach a reconciliation agreement with the Kaska and we’re very proud that it’s another example of how this government continues to focus, to work with First Nations and to partner with First Nations.

We will work with First Nations when it comes to the implementation of the calls to action as described through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. We’re very proud of the work that we have done already. We’re proud to see that First Nations will lead us through a proposal that has been jointly tabled to the federal government. This has been a priority for this government and it will continue to be a priority for this government.

Hanson: Mr. Speaker, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was clear that reconciliation needs to be built on trust. There are no shortcuts to reconciliation. Call to action 47 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission called on federal, provincial and territorial governments to change the way that they interact with First Nation governments, by changing the laws, policies and litigation strategies that reinforce a colonial legacy.

The Premier has said that he accepts the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, yet behind-closed-door negotiations without community involvement continue to occur under the Premier’s direction.

Can the Premier explain how the reconciliation agreements currently being negotiated with Yukon and BC First Nation governments advance the principles set out in the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission?

Pasloski: Mr. Speaker, when the Truth and Reconciliation Commission came out last June with their calls to action, I immediately asked all the departments to come forward, to examine the calls to action and to describe what we have already accomplished to that extent. I have shared that report with Yukon First Nations. We have worked with them. We have asked them to lead as we move forward with articulating a plan to engage this territory on a path to reconciliation.

As we know, reconciliation means many, many things. We all feel that it is the responsibility, not only of the public government and the First Nation governments, but indeed of all Yukon citizens, organizations and service clubs. That is the path that we are on. We are proud to submit a proposal to the Government of Canada along with Yukon First Nations, and we will be very proud to continue to move forward with First Nations on this very important issue.

Hanson: A key principle of reconciliation is that it cannot occur without a shift in thinking and a change in the way in which government — this government — goes about its business. These agreements that the government says are intended to reduce the social, economic and resource gap between Yukon First Nations and the rest of Yukon are supposedly being done to further reconciliation, yet they are being negotiated in Vancouver boardrooms, disconnected from the communities in which reconciliation is supposed to be taking place.

The notion that reconciliation can take place without the engagement of community members is inconsistent with the principles of reconciliation set out by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Does the Premier really believe that reconciliation can be achieved through negotiations in a distant boardroom rather than in working with all segments of Yukon’s communities?

Pasloski: When it comes to the Kaska — which the leader is implying — we indeed will meet anywhere that they want to meet to work forward. The Kaska wanted to meet in their offices in Vancouver, so we were very glad to do that. We do support negotiating with the elected members of the Kaska. That is exactly how we are doing it. We have our negotiators who work with their negotiators. This is how public government recognizes the duly elected governments of First Nations. We will continue to work with them. We continue to work with White River as we move forward with reconciliation with them. Truly in this territory, having 11 final self-government agreements is a large — something that has been described by the TRC as being a very important step forward in Canada for reconciliation — something that this territory, again, leads the country in.