On February 24th an Op-Ed piece entitled ‘When ‘Final Land Claims’ aren’t actually ‘final’ appeared in the National Post. The author was identified as Yule Schmidt, a Whitehorse resident who ‘serves as a Special Advisor to the Yukon government.’ According to her LinkedIn profile, her day job is “Policy advising across departments for Yukon's Premier and Cabinet Ministers, working closely with senior staff to address high level strategic issues.” To be clear the author is in fact one of the Premier’s top political advisors, not a public servant.
The Op-Ed is sure to add gasoline to the already combustible relationship the Yukon
Party government has with Yukon First Nations. The author scolds First Nations for using the courts to define the boundaries of some provisions of their final agreements. Just for good measure the author also takes a swipe at another enemy of the Conservatives: the courts and their ‘judicial activism.’
The timing of the broadside is also questionable. With the Government of Yukon set to spent thousands of dollars promoting mining in Toronto this week at the annual Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) show it is counterproductive to be using the national media to fire shots at Yukon First Nations. Mining companies are looking for signs the government is willing to work with First Nations not a reminder that it can’t seem to stop poking a stick in the eye of anyone who disagrees with their world view. The letter only serves to highlight current divisions and does nothing to encourage investors that Yukon is a good place to spend money.
The article concludes by saying that it reflects the author’s personal views and not those of her employer. However, it raises a number of questions such as whether the content was approved by the Premier’s office. If so, what is the government hoping to gain with its public criticism of First Nation governments. If not, does the Premier share the views expressed by a senior member of his political staff?
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