“We’ve heard very clearly at home that climate change is the priority,” said Assembly of First Nations Yukon Regional Chief Kluane Adamek. “We’re the region at this point of time most impacted and feeling the impact and having to respond on a day to day basis.”
The need for climate action is such a concern that Adamek made the trip to Madrid in December to participate the United Nations Climate Change conference. She was disappointed that the conference ended without an agreement on further international rules on carbon markets, but she was pleased with the position taken by new Canadian Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.
“It is important to acknowledge, and from my perspective, commend that Canada was one of those international leaders that continued to push for human rights and Indigenous rights. We need to keep that momentum. While we know things aren’t perfect and there’s a lot of work to do, I think it’s important to acknowledge when the support and advocacy mirrors what our asks and direction to government is,” said Adamek.
This upcoming March, the Yukon AFN and the Council of Yukon First Nations will host a climate gathering that will highlight and build on the environmental work being done in Yukon communities. The goal is to create a unified Yukon First Nations declaration on climate action that will serve as the foundation for a Yukon First Nations Climate Strategy.
“In the Yukon… (we) identified how climate change and action is not a partisan issue. It can’t be. It’s something as human beings we all need to be responding to…. Certainly First Nations-led and driven solutions to addressing climate action will be the priority with this new Liberal government,” the regional chief said.
Adamek is also the national chair for the AFN environment and climate change portfolio and committee. It’s no accident she took on this position.
“I took a lot of time to think about (the portfolios) because … the priority for me is … to be engaged nationally, but also make the most sense for the Yukon regionally,” she said.
Those portfolios set the priorities for 2020.
Adamek is also the lead on the modern treaty implementation working group. In the Yukon, 11 of 14 nations having self-government and land claim agreements.
Modern treaty agreements also exist in Quebec, British Columbia and the Northwest Territories, and more than 70 First Nations are in the process of negotiating modern treaties.
Last year, Yukon AFN hosted a modern treaty forum.
“We were able to create this really unique space to have leadership share what the journey has been in advancing the nation-to-nation relationship, moving beyond the Indian Act. With that energy and momentum, that’s going to translate into this new year,” said Adamek.
Adamek is the AFN co-lead for the health portfolio. Seeing a land-based healing facility in Yukon is a priority. Right now, people need to go south for treatment.
Implementing the Calls for Justice from the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls also remains high on the agenda for discussions that will be taking place between Yukon First Nations leadership and the territorial government.
Known as the Yukon Forum, they meet three or four times annually to discuss joint priorities, says Adamek, and then they meet with the federal ministers to push those issues.
“It’s about really starting to press for change in all areas at all levels in terms of ensuring that Indigenous women and girls are safe and that … we are taking this issue so seriously that it becomes a focus in all our work,” said Adamek.
Another issue she says they will continue to work with both levels of government on will be ensuring that no children fall through the cracks with the new child and family welfare legislation, which came into force Jan. 1.
Adamek says more planned collaboration should have occurred between the federal government and the First Nations, but for the Yukon, with 11 nations able to develop their own laws which supersede territorial laws, their agreements already provide them with the ability to address what has been identified in the act.
“We will continue to press for the capacity to be able to respond from a community perspective and be able to ensure that our kids are safe,” she said. “At the end of the day our kids are our most precious resource because they are going to be the ones, first of all, dealing with all of the decisions we make, but also the ones who are going to be tasked with making decisions for young people in the future.”
Adamek is also co-leader for the AFN’s youth council portfolio.
Adamek sees 2020 as “a year of action.”
With a Liberal minority government that may only last two years, “we’ve got to be clear and we’ve got to be strategic and we’ve got to continue to press for our priorities.”