Where does the Yukon Party government stand on National Aboriginal Day?

On Monday, 2 November Yukon NDP MLA Kevin Barr asked the following question about the Yukon Party government's support for his initiative to make National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday in Yukon.

Mr. Kevin Barr (Yukon NDP MLA for Mount Lorne--Southern Lakes): Almost one in four Yukoners identify as being First Nation, Métis or Inuit. As it stands, Yukon considers Discovery Day, which marks the beginning of the gold rush and Yukon’s modern history, as a statutory holiday. Given the central role that aboriginal Yukoners play in both our history and present-day Yukon, people have told us that National Aboriginal Day on June 21st should join Discovery Day as a chance to celebrate another aspect of Yukon’s rich cultural history. Will the government agree to make National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday in Yukon?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Certainly Yukon Territory is a beacon throughout this country for the accomplishments and progression that have occurred along the roads of independence and self-government and truly down the path toward reconciliation. This territory has a rich culture and rich history. A rejuvenation of First Nation languages occurs right now as we speak.

Many of us participate in National Aboriginal Day. Every year I certainly enjoy, with my wife Tammie, going down to the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre and enjoy a full day’s celebration. I encourage all Yukoners to recognize the importance of National Aboriginal Day and to participate in truly celebrating the rich history and culture of our First Nation heritage here in this territory.

Mr. Barr: I guess maybe that was a nay. There are numerous benefits to a statutory holiday on National Aboriginal Day, which, by the way, has already been recognized by our neighbours in the Northwest Territories. With only four stat holidays to Alberta’s and Newfoundland’s seven, we would not be breaking the bank. While the Truth and Reconciliation Commission calls for a holiday to celebrate truth and reconciliation, this could be a step toward achieving that goal. Most importantly, we would give all Yukoners the chance to celebrate Yukon First Nation culture together, as the Premier stated.

Can I count on the government’s support for our motion to make National Aboriginal Day a statutory holiday in Yukon?

Hon. Mr. Darrell Pasloski (Premier): Certainly, as I articulated in my first response, National Aboriginal Day is certainly a day of significance, but I have to also admit — and I am surprised the member opposite doesn’t recognize this — that many of the First Nations have their own special day that recognizes their First Nation. We continue to participate in and to advertise our National Aboriginal Day. There are festivities that occur not only in Whitehorse, but in communities across this territory. It is a day of celebration. It is a day to recognize the true work that has gone on — starting decades ago with Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow.

I just participated in the ceremony recognizing 10 years of final and self-government agreements with Kwanlin Dün First Nation. We tribute the Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Carcross/Tagish First Nation on the 10th anniversary of their final and self-government agreements. We recognize all the work and the visionary leaders who worked in getting us to the point we are today. So much work has been done, but there is still so much work to be done.

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