Adeline Webber on being Yukon’s next commissioner

Adeline Webber was chosen this week as the Yukon’s new commissioner. ‘I’m very busy in the community and this would just be a different type of role, where I no longer have to be in politics — you know, which I kind of like,’ she said. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Webber was appointed this week to serve 5-year term as territory’s next commissioner

Adeline Webber was in Pelly Crossing, Yukon, last week when she got a phone call.

It was the prime minister, asking if Webber would consider serving as Yukon’s next commissioner.

“I said yes, I would,” she recalled this week, just after the prime minister announced Webber’s appointment as the top-level federal representative in the territory. She’ll serve a five-year term as commissioner, succeeding Angélique Bernard.

The role is largely ceremonial, involving attendance at official functions and events, and handing out honours and awards such as the Order of Yukon. The commissioner is akin to the lieutenant-governor of a province.

Webber spoke with Elyn Jones, host of CBC Radio’s Yukon Morning this week about her appointment.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Why did you want to consider the prime minister’s proposal, and be commissioner?

Well, it’s something that I’ve always been curious about. And I’ve had a few friends who have been commissioners, so you know, I’ve watched them over the years.

So I thought that I still have a lot to offer. I’m very busy in the community and this would just be a different type of role, where I no longer have to be in politics — you know, which I kind of like.

It is a position that’s part of the colonial structure, and the Crown — and you’re a First Nations woman. Is that something that you reflected upon?

I did. But you know, I thought about that and I thought, well, this is the way the government is running now and it’s something that we can be involved in. We can’t step away from things like that, because it’s important to be included and involved in areas that may be a little bit controversial.

It still is important for First Nations people to participate in something like that. Across the country, there’s people have been appointed as commissioners and lieutenant-governors, including the Governor General of Canada now is an Indigenous person. So I’m looking forward to that interaction with them, and to do some planning with people
from across the North.

And of course, we’ve had other Indigenous commissioners in the Yukon, such as Judy Gingell and Geraldine Van Bibber. Are they role models for you?

Oh, definitely. And they’ve all reached out to me. Many people have reached out to me already. So I really appreciate the kind words and their assurance that I will do well.

You talk about reaching out and connecting with people across the North. So what are some of your plans as commissioner?

One of them that I thought was really important, is to reach out to the communities, to go to all the communities.

You know, I’ve been involved with First Nation communities, but I also have been involved in the community in other roles over the years. So I do want to meet the people in communities, and the young people.

You know there’s a lot of mental health issues that are cropping up in the communities, with a lot of the things that are happening in the community. So it’s something I really think is important to concentrate on, to support in the community.

But also other events and celebrations, of not only the First Nations people, but all of the people in the Yukon.

Of course, we’ve spoken to you many times. We’ve talked to you as part of the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Circle, and of course as chair of the Yukon Residential Schools Missing Children working group. So will you still be working on those initiatives?

Unfortunately, I have to give those things up, but they’re in good hands.

You know, Judy Gingell is the vice chair of our residential school group and she’s taking over now. And other things are well in hand, so I don’t have any concerns about them.

Are there lessons or any preparations that you go through, as part of being a commissioner? Training sessions or something?

I would think I’d have some sort of orientation. But you know, as Yukon administrator, I did carry out a lot of the duties, you know, the responsibilities. I’ve sworn in the current premier and the ministers, I’ve done signing of documents over the years. So I’ve had five years of experience doing that.

So I think I have a bit of an idea of what is expected, but I just have to wait and see.

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