‘Dysfunctional Governance: Yukon’s Liard ‘First Nation’

“The Liard ‘First Nation’, {a ‘nation’ of 1,152 people} based in Watson Lake, Yukon, is asking the Federal Court to restore its control of the funding it receives from the federal government.ERBLDysfunctional Governance--Yukon's Liard ‘First Nation’800x800“The ‘First Nation’ has been under third-party management for two years. The condition was imposed after it fell more than $700,000 in debt and failed to abide by the ‘Federal ‘First Nations’ Transparency Act’. 

“The third-party manager is an aboriginal-owned B.C. company called ‘Ganhada’. The firm said it does not comment on cases, but its relations with the Liard ‘First Nation’ have been rocky. When it was first appointed, it took seven months for Ganhada’s workers to gain access to ‘First Nation’ offices in Watson Lake. 

“With a new federal government, the condition should be removed, said Chief Daniel Morris. He wants a ‘reset’ of the relationship and what he calls a new ‘Nation-to-nation’ dialogue {For more info on this dubious character, follow the ‘Background’ link below}.

“Across the country, the federal government has reinstated some funds frozen under the ‘controversial’ {only with corrupt chiefs} ‘First Nations’ Financial Transparency Act’.

“The ‘Indigenous’ and Northern Affairs department however, has re-appointed the Liard ‘First Nation’s third-party manager.

“A statement from ‘I’NAC says third-party managers like Ganhada are supposed to “work with the ‘First Nation’ to remedy the underlying issues”, and help guide ‘nations’ back to ‘self-government’.

“According to Morris, that hasn’t been happening.

“He said Tuesday he’s received no estimate for when the managers’ term would end.

“They’re telling their staff not to have anything to do with Chief and Council, not to answer”, he said {I wonder why?}.

“But Morris is also facing opposition within his own ‘First Nation’. Two of the four councillors have recently quit and some community members have formed a splinter group called “Kaska Concerned about Land Protection and Good Government” and disavowed the Chief.

“Asked if the ‘First Nation’ could handle its own finances, Morris admitted it was not in a position to do so alone.

“We don’t have the capacity. We need to build the capacity for the ‘First Nation’ to handle its own programs”, he said.

“Morris wants the federal government to replace Ganhada with a new model of co-management, which would see the Chief and Council work with a new accounting firm.

“We’re talking to ‘Deloitte’ and we have a firm that’s willing to sit down with council and put a work plan together. We don’t have the same relationship with the third-party (manager) that’s there now”, he said.

“Court documents also show that the federal government intends to contest the ‘First Nation’s request for a federal court review.

“‘CBC News’ has contacted the ‘Indigenous’ and Northern Affairs department for comment.”

–‘Yukon’s Liard ‘First Nation’ fights to regain control from feds’,
CBC News, May 03, 2016

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/liard-first-nation-court-3rd-party-control-1.3565255 Liard first-nationsFrom August, 2015:

“There have been no council meetings. They don’t even have an office.”

‘The federal government has filed a court order against Yukon’s Liard ‘First Nation’.

“The order seeks to enforce the ‘First Nations’ Financial Transparency Act’…

“The department of ‘Aboriginal Affairs’ and Northern Development Canada wants the Federal Court to force the Liard ‘First Nation’ to publish financial information. This includes the salaries of Chief and Council.

“A notice of application says the Liard ‘First Nation’ has “failed to, or refused to, publish all of the documents” required by the act.

“…The Liard ‘First Nation’ is the only ‘First Nation’ in Yukon, NWT and Nunavut not to comply with the act.

“Court papers filed in Yukon cite “repeated demands” from AANDC that the Liard ‘First Nation’ publish salaries.

“The seeking of a court order comes a full year after passage of the Act.

“Last March, the office of Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt sent what it called a “formal letter” to the L‘FN’, demanding it meet the act’s requirements.

“At that time, Valcourt wrote that L‘FN’ leadership

“have not fulfilled the requirements of the act, nor provided the government with an action plan, thus leaving their members in the dark about how band revenues are spent.”

“According to AANDC’s Emily Hillstrom, the government then filed a notice of application with the Federal Court. 

“Failure to comply with any court order can lead to charges of contempt of court.

“According to the Act, funds may be also withheld from ‘First Nations’ which do not publish required information.

“In the case of the Liard ‘First Nation’, however, it’s unclear what funds the federal government could withhold. The ‘First Nation’ has been under third-party management since August of 2014. As part of the arrangement, “non-essential services” have already been cut.

“The Liard ‘First Nations’ federally-allocated finances are being distributed by a B.C. company as part of a plan to repay more than $700,000 in debts…

“In the community of Watson Lake, members of the L‘FN’ have also been calling for Chief and Council to publish information on spending and salaries.

“Liard ‘First Nation’ member Alfred Chief is part of a political splinter group called ‘Kaska Concerned About Land Protection and Good Government’.

“There have been no council meetings. They don’t even have an office,”

Chief says of the current Liard ‘First Nation’ leaders.

“Meanwhile, members of the community say two of four L ‘FN’ councillors have stepped down in recent weeks. CBC has been unable to reach those councillors to confirm.

“We have no idea what’s going on”, Chief says.

“AANDC and Minister Bernard Valcourt’s office have declined requests for on-camera interviews.

“Liard ‘First Nation’ Chief Daniel Morris and councillors have not returned calls from the CBC.”

–‘Liard ‘First Nation’ served court papers by federal government’,
Philippe Morin, CBC News, Aug. 03, 2015




http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/liard-women-s-group-ready-to-work-with-daniel-morris-1.2468767  {See ‘Comments’}


Liard 'First Nation' Chief Daniel Morris, 2003 (Yukon News)
Liard ‘First Nation’ Chief Daniel Morris, 2003 (Yukon News)

Some background on Chief Daniel Morris:

“Morris was chief once before, but he was removed from office in disgrace in 2003 following a conviction for brutally assaulting his then-estranged wife, and threatening another man with a loaded rifle…

“After returning home one spring evening in 2003, Morris discovered that his wife was missing. According to court records, Morris grabbed his .30-30 rifle and four live shells, climbed into his truck and headed to Lower Post, B.C., to look for her.

“He found her there in a car with another man whom court records did not identify. Morris cocked the rifle and threatened to kill the man with it, court records state.

“He then forced the man from the vehicle and ordered his wife to drive back towards Watson Lake. As the other man fled, he heard Morris yell, “I’m going to kill you” at his wife, court records said.

“Once on the road, Morris followed his wife in his pickup until they reached a gravel pit near the entrance to Lower Post. Morris hauled his wife from the car, marched her into a nearby sand pit and began to beat her.

“She pleaded with him to stop and at one point agreed to have sexual intercourse with him if he would stop beating her”, court records said. “After the sexual intercourse, the respondent (Morris) continued to assault her. The assault continued for approximately two hours in total.”

“The ‘Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society’ at the time called the attack

“a horrific act of domestic violence.”

“At his trial, Morris pleaded guilty to assaulting his wife, as well as uttering death threats and forcible confinement. He was sentenced to two years probation for his crimes…

“In an unrelated matter, Morris is also accused by the’First Nation’ of having taken nearly $250,000 in inappropriate loans from the L‘FN’ government while he was chief…

“Former Chief Liard McMillan tried to get the RCMP and Aboriginal Affairs — which funds a significant portion of the ‘First Nation’s budget — to investigate the loans. McMillan personally supplied the RCMP with seven bankers’ boxes full of documents that he says back up the allegations, and the police wound up seizing dozens more.

“The ‘First Nation’ hired ‘FJD & Company’ to conduct a forensic review of the government’s books. That report alleges that Morris took $150,000 in improper loans, and also signed himself $36,000 in cheques in a single day…

“But HE WAS NEVER CHARGED WITH ANYTHING. Aboriginal affairs hired financial firm ‘KPMG’ forensic to review the FJD report. KPMG confirmed FJD’s findings that Morris took the money, but found there was no way to prove that it was Aboriginal Affairs money he took because money from a variety of sources all went into the same bank account. In the end, Aboriginal Affairs closed the file without ordering a full forensic audit…”

–‘Morris seeks to reclaim L‘FN’ chief’s seat’,
Jesse Winter, Yukon News, December 6, 2013 {CAPS added}

“This article is incomplete. The original sentencing judge did sentence Mr. Morris to 2 years of probation for the attack on his wife and her friend. However, the Crown appealed this sentence to the BC Court of Appeal, and the sentence was changed to 12 months jail, to be followed by 2 years of probation. The Court of Appeal noted

“It was a violent and protracted assault which occurred after Mr. Morris spent more than an hour searching for his wife. He was sober and had the opportunity to contemplate his actions. When he did find his wife, he brutally assaulted her for a prolonged period and inflicted serious injuries. She required three days in hospital to recover.” –‘R. v. Morris’, [2004] BCJ No. 1117 (BCCA).

Watson Lake Hotel (Yukon News)
Watson Lake Hotel (Yukon News)

From 2009:
“Van Bibber knows “lots” of members who are upset. But few are willing to speak out when the ‘First Nation’ controls much of the housing and jobs in the village.

“People are intimidated”, she said.

“Members of the Liard ‘First Nation’ are incensed by their chief’s refusal to explain why nearly $3 million in federal housing money was used to buy three Watson Lake hotels.

“Members haven’t benefited from nothing”, said Eileen Van Bibber. “This is wrong.”

“The acquisition, made in June of 2007, was justified with the claim that part of the ‘Watson Lake Hotel’ would be turned into affordable housing for seniors and members with special needs.

“But, more than two years after the sale, that hasn’t happened.

“The hotel is closed, its windows boarded up. And the windows that have not been boarded up, have been smashed by vandals.

“Chief Liard McMillan has not returned repeated calls from the ‘Yukon News’ over the past week. Alex Morrison, the boss of the development corporation that oversaw the hotel purchases, refuses to comment.

“The Yukon government, which was supposed to administer the ‘Northern Housing Trust’ funds on behalf of Ottawa, says it was in the dark about the hotel acquisitions. It’s now asking the ‘First Nation’ for details on the expenditures.

“The’First Nation’ told the territory that it would spend its $2.83 million on building between 10 to 12 housing units.

“Other potential projects included 15 major and 30 minor renovations, as well as a pilot home-ownership program and a feasibility plan to create a local housing authority.

“It remains unclear how much, if any, of this work was done.

“But this much is clear: the ‘First Nation’ used its federal housing money to purchase the ‘Belvedere Motor Hotel’, the ‘Watson Lake Hotel’ and ‘Gateway Motor Inn’. And no affordable housing is currently offered at these hotels.

“The funding agreement between the ‘First Nation’ and the territory was finally made public yesterday, when Premier Dennis Fentie tabled it in the legislature.

“The deal allows the territory to claw back remaining money if it’s found that the funds were not spent on affordable housing. The remaining money would then be redistributed to other ‘First Nations’ to spend on housing projects.

“But it’s unlikely much of Liard ‘First Nation’s housing money is left. The sale price of the three hotels has never been publicly disclosed, but it was rumoured to be in the range of $3 million.

“Liard ‘First Nation’ was supposed to have provided the territory with an accounting of how the housing money was spent. But the ‘First Nation’ never disclosed the hotel purchases, said Dermot Flynn with the territory’s land-claims secretariat.

“And territorial officials never saw the ‘First Nation’s consolidated financial statements for 2007, he said. A page from these statements, obtained by the News, shows the federal housing money was used to purchase the hotels with a plan to turn part into housing.

“The ‘First Nation’s use of the housing money has been an open secret in Watson Lake for some time”, said Van Bibber.

“Van Bibber and other members tried to ask what housing would be built with the federal money at a general assembly in April, she said. It was the first general assembly to be held in at least four years.

“The chief offered few details, she said.

“Nobody knows nothing: what’s going on, what deal was made, was never discussed with the members”, she said. “It was never discussed with nobody.” 

“Van Bibber is free to be a critic because the home in which she lives is not owned by the ‘First Nation’. And she’s an elder, so she’s no longer looking for work from the Band.

“She’s observed little evidence that the ‘First Nation’ has improved its housing stock since receiving the federal money. Much of the existing housing is in shoddy shape and badly needs repairing, she said.

“She has one elderly friend who lives in a trailer that sits on ground contaminated by a sewage spill.

“Another elder she knows cannot shut her front door without regularly banging the frame free of ice. She’s 84.

“That’s not right”, said Van Bibber.

“Meanwhile, new housing units cannot keep pace with the number of young families looking for a home of their own. Typically, about three housing units are built by the ‘First Nation’ annually, she said. It’s not enough.

“A lot of people are having a hard time finding a place to stay”, said Van Bibber.

“There are other grievances. The band-owned laundromat is shuttered, creating a big inconvenience for those without a washing machine.

“And Van Bibber has seen no progress moving much of the village from trucked water to piped service, leaving many members vulnerable when the water truck breaks down.

“Fentie signed the ‘First Nation’s funding agreement in February. He hasn’t responded to several interview requests.

“Two of Fentie’s close political allies benefited from the deal. One is Archie Lang, minister of Community Services. The other is Pat Irvin, who was recently appointed as chair of ‘Yukon Energy’s board of directors.

“Lang and Irvin owned the three hotels. Neither of them returned calls, either.

“The Yukon received a total of $50 million from the ‘Northern Housing Trust’. Of that, $32.5 million was divvied up among ‘First Nations’ to spend as they saw fit.”

–‘Liard ‘First Nation’ silent on hotel deals’,
John Thompson, Yukon News, October 30, 2009

COMMENT: “I just want to thank the ‘Yukon News’ for bringing this to light. Your piece fails to mention that the hotel which is pictured in the above piece has been condemned.” 

Closed Offices of the Liard 'First Nation' in Watson Lake, Yukon (Philippe Morin - CBC)
Closed Offices of the Liard ‘First Nation’ in Watson Lake, Yukon (Philippe Morin – CBC)

From 2014:
‘Yukon ‘first nation’ has been shut down for 6 months’

“The Liard ‘First Nation’ in Watson Lake, Yukon could be headed to third-party management — a circumstance considered a last resort by the federal government in cases of financial default or allegations of mismanagement.

“It’s been six months since the Liard ‘First Nation’ abruptly laid off about 40 employees in Watson Lake. The federal government is providing what it calls “emergency services”, including the distribution of income support, but community members say they don’t know what’s happening with other services and programs.

“Everybody’s in the dark”, says ‘First Nation’ member Eileen Van Bibber. “We don’t know what happened… when 40 people got laid off. A lot of those young people are out of a job. I don’t know what became of our youth program, elders food supplement program, alcohol and drug program… I don’t know where things are.”

“Van Bibber says the bare-bones approach to services is harming ‘First Nation’ members. She’s also critical of Chief Morris, who she says has not been speaking to members or publishing information.

“The L‘FN’ elected a ‘new’ chief, Daniel Morris, in December. The layoffs came abruptly the following month. At the time, the L‘FN’ blamed the previous administration of Chief Liard McMillan. In a press release, Chief Morris said the layoffs were an emergency temporary measure.

“Six months have passed since then, with no public statements from the chief or ‘First Nation’.

“The L‘FN’ has also failed to produce an audit, which was promised before the elections in December.

“Aboriginal Affairs is currently pursuing recipient audits of the ‘First Nation’s finances from 2011 to 2013. Another recipient audit will be conducted on the L‘FN’s finances in 2013 and 2014, with results expected to be published in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.

“Discussions about the recovery management process date back to November 2013, according to George Morgan, who resigned as the ‘First Nation’s executive director this month.

“He says it seemed as though the ‘First Nation’ was about to comply with repeated requests for information from the federal government, going so far as to nominate a co-manager that would work with a third-party manager.

“But after the December election, the leadership had a change of heart.


“Dennis Dixon Lutz is another L’FN’ member who wants to know what’s going on.

“It’s up in the air. Everything. We don’t know. We’re not informed, there’s no newsletters, no meetings. You can’t even reach the leadership. It’s not working”, he says…

“CBC has repeatedly asked the Liard ‘First Nation’ to comment on this issue. The ‘First Nation’ has so far declined…”

–‘Liard ‘First Nation’ may be headed to 3rd-party management’,
Philippe Morin, CBC News, June 30, 2014  {CAPS  added}

“That’s amazing. There are only 500 people in the “nation” and they have a chief and four band councillors, 5 executives and 40 employees. Who would think there would be a problem with sustainability?”
“This is not surprising — I am a member and like most of the members, we are left in the dark as to what is going to happen with our ‘First Nation’, it is a great shame that we are the biggest ‘FN’ in the Yukon and yet we are the poorest in every sense of the word. I truly believe that all Chiefs should be educated, sober and actually care about your people and what is it than you can do to make a difference for all of our members — not just your family and friends but for all of us. WE NEED people who care, Not people who just want to have the title of CHIEF, they need to live by example.” 

2012 (Yukon News)
2012 (Yukon News)

And finally, from back in 2008:
“The Liard ‘First Nation’ has big problems with Yukon’s proposed forest resources act.

“The draft law, intended to kick-start the territory’s forestry industry, may instead result in another protracted court battle, the ‘First Nation’ warns.

“Liard is one of the few Yukon ‘First Nations’ with no final agreement. As part of the Kaska ‘Nation’, it {falsely} claims close to one-quarter of Yukon’s landmass as its ‘traditional territory’ {An area that would take them years to traverse by foot…}. This includes much of Yukon’s boreal forest…”

–‘ Liard ‘First Nation’ challenges forestry bill’,
John Thompson, Yukon News, November 8, 2008


Liard First Nation Water Treatment Plant
Liard First Nation Water Treatment Plant

“Liard ‘First Nation’ spans the southeastern Yukon Territory in Canada.

“Its main centres are Upper Liard, Yukon and Watson Lake, Yukon along the Alaska Highway. The language originally spoken by the people of Liard ‘First Nation’ was Kaska, and this ‘First Nation’ is a member of the ‘Kaska Tribal Council’…”


Watson Lake
Watson Lake

“According to one Michael G. Johnson (“The Native Tribes of North America”, 1994),

“continuous contact with ‘whites’ began in the 1820’s with the establishment of a Hudson’s Bay post on the Liard River, followed by increasing ‘intrusion’ by miners and freelance traders and trappers. In 1969, there were 533 Kaska in the Liard River Band near lower post and Watson Lake.”

“It is unlikely that these were the only natives in the area, since the people do not consider themselves members of a specific “tribe” as such. Ethnographers typically define Alaskan and Canadian Native Americans by linguistic category for this reason. There are, however, two types of clan designations as “matrilineal moieties” known as the ‘Raven’ (crow) and ‘Wolf’ in English.

“The Kaska were

“primarily caribou hunters and lived in temporary dwellings such as tepees or huts made of poles and brush, or sometimes in summer, simple lean-tos. Transport was by (birch-bark) canoe, snowshoe and toboggan” (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 1985).

“The Kaska believe in the powers of animal spirits and the practices of medicine men. Reincarnation is also a facet. Sub-arctic societies or composite bands are large enough for distinct personality features to be seen as reincarnations of people in the groups past.”

http://www.watsonlake.ca/about-watson-lake/liard-first-nations/ liard-first-nation-WEB“The Liard River ‘First Nation’, also known as the Liard ‘First Nation’ (pronounced “lee-ahrd”) is a ‘First Nation’ in the southeastern Yukon in Canada. Its main centres are Upper Liard, Yukon and Watson Lake, Yukon along the Alaska Highway. The language originally spoken by the people of this ‘First Nation’ was Kaska and the ‘First Nation’ is a member of the ‘Kaska Tribal Council’, which is pursuing land claims in the Yukon and northern British Columbia…

“Their registered population is 1,152.”


Philippe Morin – CBC
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