The Natural Resources and Implementation (NRI) Department at the Council of Yukon First Nations works on natural resources, environmental, heritage, economic, and implementation matters of concern to Yukon First Nations. It follows through on political strategies set by Leadership or the General Assembly. This includes the implementation of the Strategic Plan.
The department hosts multiple functional units whose work covers a range of matters including: advocating for inclusion of heritage values; work to maximize economic opportunities; updating legislation; supporting and coordinating participation on Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) implementation issues; participating on joint management boards and committees; and supporting Yukon First Nations in salmon revitalization, climate change work, and preventing and managing contaminants.
The Heritage Unit advocates for appropriate inclusion of Yukon First Nations heritage values into legislative developments to ensure effective co-management, respectful approaches, and protection for future generations.
The Heritage Unit also helps coordinate the Heritage Working Group tables where members of each Yukon First Nation, CYFN and Yukon government discuss and address issues of heritage promotion, protection, and preservation. As an example of this collaborative work, the group launched the Heritage Awareness Campaign to educate Yukoners on the importance of heritage in Yukon, types of artifacts historically used by Yukon First Nations, and what to do if they find an artifact.
The work of the Heritage Unit is a priority under the Yukon Forum and is a commitment found in Chapter 13 of the Umbrella Final Agreement.
Economic Development Unit
The Economic Development Unit supports Yukon First Nations’ participation in the Yukon economy by leading and supporting policy development and improvement to maximize economic opportunities.
Examples of the Unit’s current work include participation in monitoring, review and improvement of the Yukon First Nations Procurement Policy. The unit collaborates with Yukon First Nation representatives interacting with the Policy and works with Yukon government to draw these ideas into improved approaches.
The Unit also engages with Yukon First Nation representatives to coordinate development of a CYFN-led northern chapter of the Arctic and Northern Policy Framework (ANPF). The ANPF is a federal-led policy document that will guide federal approaches in circumpolar affairs; the northern chapter will guide the federal government to prioritize appropriate northern interests and priorities, including those of economic interest.
The Economic Development Unit’s work is borne out of Chapter 22 of the Umbrella Final Agreement which defines Yukon First Nations’ economic development goals.
Lands and Resources Legislation
Successor Resource Legislation
Staff in the CYFN Natural Resources and Implementation Department participate actively in legislation that is required to be updated as part of devolution. When the Government of Canada transferred responsibilities for lands, water, forestry and mineral resources to the Government of Yukon in 2003, the agreements recognized that ongoing work was needed to align with Yukon First Nation self government agreements. CYFN staff play a secretariat role to bring together Yukon government, Yukon First Nations and transboundary Indigenous groups on minerals and lands legislation to modernize the transferred legislation.
Staff in the Implementation Unit are responsible for coordinating Umbrella Final Agreement implementation actions. The Unit co-chairs an implementation working group (identified in the UFA implementation plan) comprised of Yukon First Nations, the Yukon government, and the federal government to discuss and address implementation issues.
These working group discussions culminate in a bi-annual Intergovernmental Forum where the CYFN Grand Chief, Yukon First Nation Chiefs, Yukon government ministers, and federal ministers meet to discuss and provide direction on addressing issues. The Implementation unit plays a coordinating role in ensuring the meetings run smoothly.The Implementation unit also participates in a national-level Land Claims Agreement Coalition.
Created in 2003, the Coalition “works to ensure that comprehensive land claims (modern treaties) and associated self-government agreements are respected, honoured and fully implemented”. Coalition members provide support to other members navigating similar issues and work together to encourage improvements in federal approaches to treaty partnership.
Representation on Boards and Committees
The Umbrella Final Agreement outlines the establishment of boards and committees to ensure the effective joint management of several specific areas. CYFN supports Yukon First Nations’ board and committee work by ensuring invitations are circulated, by attending the meetings, sharing important perspectives at the meetings, and communicating back to Yukon First Nations members if they were not able to attend. CYFN representatives participate in approximately 40 different boards and committees.
Yukon First Nations Salmon Stewardship Alliance
The Yukon First Nations Salmon Stewardship Alliance was established in 2021 to support First Nations in their fisheries work, with specific focus on salmon in recognition of the current salmon crisis. Collaboration across Yukon First Nations and with Alaska is especially important given the vast range of salmon territory. The Salmon Stewardship Alliance therefore supports enhanced connections across First Nations and the development of common approaches and priorities. The unit is operating under a five-year strategic plan.
The unit provides technical support to First Nations if needed; the staff biologist can offer on- site support and science perspectives. The unit also promotes effective data management as demonstrated through its participation in the Yukon Salmon Knowledge Hub (through the Canadian Mountain Network) where information is exchanged and areas for future study are identified.
The Salmon Stewardship Alliance hosted in 2022 the first-annual Yukon Salmon Ceremony and Gathering intended to help First Nations peoples maintain cultural connections to salmon practices and ceremony. The ceremony and gathering is the focus of the Yukon Salmon Knowledge Hub. With particular emphasis on those under 30, the gathering supports knowledge transfer amongst elders, youth and scientists, highlighting respectful and cultural practices within various Nations to help support Yukon salmon in the future.
Visit the Yukon First Nation Salmon Stewardship Alliance website: https://www.yfnssa.ca/
Northern Contaminants Program
The Northern Contaminants Program (NCP) was established in 1991 in response to concerns that contaminants were reaching the Canadian Arctic. During the first six years, research was focused on gathering the data required to determine the levels, geographic extent, and source of contaminants in the northern atmosphere, environment, and its peoples. Monitoring in Yukon has continued to show that our traditional foods are very safe to eat and highly nutritious. Today, NRE staff are involved in a regional Yukon Contaminants Committee, whose members include Yukon Government, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, and Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada.
Visit the Northern Contaminants Program website: www.northerncontaminants.com
CYFN Climate Change staff support Yukon First Nations as they adapt or adjust to the impacts of our changing northern climate. Climate change is often identified as one of the most important issues communities are facing. Increasing temperatures and changing precipitation patterns are causing floods and slides, altering animal migration routes, causing fish to behave differently, and impacting food security – to name just a few.
Climate Change staff share information on available climate change funding and work with First Nations to flesh out new or existing adaptation project ideas. Examples of work that has been funded include: putting up a dyke to reduce flood risk; plant and animal monitoring work to support restoration efforts and conservation planning; building community gardens to support food security. To date, funding partners have included the Climate Change Preparedness in the North (CCPN) program through Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada (CIRNAC) and the Climate Change and Health Adaptation First Nations Inuit Health Branch (FNIB).
CYFN Climate Change staff also works with First Nations, management boards, Yukon government and the federal government to support collaborative efforts on policy, programming, planning and visioning work addressing climate change.
Federal Funding for First Nations-Led Projects
The Climate Change Preparedness in the North (CCPN), the Climate Change Health Adaptation (CCHAP), and the Indigenous Community Based Climate Monitoring (ICBCM) programs invite First Nations to submit proposals.
Funding supports projects that focus on climate change, with ties to food security, stewardship, monitoring, wellness, health, heritage, safety on the land, emergency preparedness, working with Elders and youth, risk reduction related to fire, flood and permafrost thaw, upgrades to homes and buildings, planning and preparedness, and others. All three programs received additional funding through the Government of Canada’s National Adaptation Strategy.
- Funding supports adaptation projects in Yukon and/or Northern BC.
- Single or multi-year projects are eligible.
- Eligible applicants include: First Nation governments and development corps, non-governmental organizations, renewable resource councils, educational institutions, research associations, incorporated and unincorporated municipalities, community associations and local advisory groups.
Proposal calls are issued on a regular basis. CYFN’s Climate Change Analysts work with Yukon First Nations to develop proposals to access funding.
Contact CYFN Climate Change Analyst Nelly Bouevitch to learn more and access support at email@example.com or call 867-393-9200 ext. 9244.
Yukon Committee on Climate Change Adaptation
The Yukon Climate Change Committee on Adaptation (YC3A) exists for Yukon communities to learn and work together to strengthen resilience to climate change. Committee members review project proposals for three funds: the Climate Change Preparedness in the North (CCPN), the Climate Change Health Adaptation (CCHAP), and the Indigenous Community Based Climate Monitoring (ICBCM) programs.
The committee meets with First Nations governments and communities, travel to see projects underway in First Nations traditional territories, and learn about climate change issues affecting First Nations’ lands and waters.
The committee meets four times a year for one to two days, and meeting expenses (travel and accommodations) are covered.
Please get in touch to nominate a representative and to learn more. For more information, contact CYFN Climate Change Analyst Nelly Bouevitch at firstname.lastname@example.org or 867-393-9200 ext. 9244.
Visit: https://reconnection.vision/ to learn about the pathway for change from the Children of Tomorrow.
First Nations Climate Leadership initiative
The Government of Canada has committed to co-develop a new system for partnership on climate leadership with First Nations across Canada through the First Nations Climate Leadership (FNCL) Initiative.
CYFN works with First Nations with traditional territories in the Yukon to co-develop recommendations on ways that Canada can better support self-determined climate action.
The recommendations will include:
- How funding flows to Yukon and transboundary First Nations for climate related work.
- How decisions are made to honour the distinct and self-determined needs and priorities of Yukon and transboundary First Nations.
- Costing needs for implementing Yukon and transboundary First Nations’ climate change strategies (including additional capacity and programming asks).
- How climate action can uphold First Nations’ protocols, laws, and culture, and support the Reconnection Vision (the Yukon First Nations’ vision for climate action).
In August 2023, CYFN struck a Yukon First Nations Caucus to guide this process. We will also be hosting a series of workshops in 2024 focused on co-developing the FNCL recommendations.
If you are looking for more information on the Yukon FNCL process, or if you would like to find out how your First Nation can get involved, please contact CYFN Climate Change Analyst, Aven Knutson at email@example.com or 867-393-9200 ext. 9275.