Building relationships is key to reconciliation: new Yukon commissioner

Adeline Kh’ayàdê Webber, seen here in a 2023 file photo, says that as commissioner of the Yukon she’s been particularly impressed by the young people she’s given youth achievement awards to. “They’re still in high school and have done so much, and given so much to their communities,” she said. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Six months into her appointment as commissioner of the Yukon, Adeline Webber says she’s looking forward to building more relationships with Yukoners and continuing her work on Indigenous rights.

Webber was named commissioner in May, a largely ceremonial role similar to provincial lieutenant-governors. In a year-end interview with CBC’s Yukon Morning host Elyn Jones, Webber — a longtime advocate for Indigenous rights and, in particular, those of women — said she’s been surprised to learn she is free to shape the role to what she feels is important.

The following transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

Commissioner, you’re six months into the job — how is it going?

It’s been busy. One of the very first things I did in my first week on the job — the Governor General was here, and all the Lieutenant governors (from the provinces) and commissioners from the other territories were all here, so we had a two-day conference that I chaired. It was really exciting, and to be able to meet all of those people at the same time.

What are some of the other things you’ve been doing?

Council generals from different countries have dropped into my office to say hello and talk about what makes the Yukon so special, and they’ve really been impressed with what some of them said is this “unknown jewel.” I met some of them online and then some in person.

What has been a highlight so far?

Giving out awards to different people. The one that really impressed me was the Youth Achievement Awards. I’m really amazed at these young people, they’re still in high school and have done so much, and given so much to their communities.

As the Yukon’s new commissioner, Adeline Webber says she’s working to build relationships with Yukoners of all ethnicities. (Chris Windeyer/CBC)

Leading up to this role, you were heavily involved with the Whitehorse Aboriginal Women’s Council and the Yukon Residential Schools Missing Children working group. How have you been able to bring this work into your new role?

Well, I’m trying to include them in the different things I do but I have to just decide, or find out, what it is that I’m able to do. I definitely want to continue to support those efforts and do what I can to support reconciliation and definitely try to meet with as many people as possible, not only the First Nations. I represent all citizens of Yukon, so I really look forward to meeting them in the next few months and going to communities. Even meeting with people here in Whitehorse from the different ethnic groups, I think that’s really important.

How can the role of commissioner work into reconciliation at this time?

Reconciliation takes everyone. Everyone has to be involved and I think that by talking to the community, talking about what’s important to them, helping them to understand what’s what, what can be done or what could be done to build relationships.

I’m going to be going to one of the schools in January to talk about reconciliation with the teachers at the Catholic High School, St. Francis of Assisi.

What have you learned or been surprised by in this job?

The one that would be the big surprise was having the Governor General and others that attended here in the Yukon. And I guess the surprise for me is that I’m quite free to build whatever I think is important, and as you know, I’ve been involved with women’s groups, I’ve been involved with the residential school issues, so those are things I will be concentrating on and and I think that when it comes down to it, it’s going to be about building relationships through reconciliation, helping others to understand what can be done.

What do you want to concentrate on in the new year?

Well, I think it’s important to, as I said, to get out and talk to the people and find out what’s important to them, what’s happening in their communities and look at how I can assist. But you know, there are some things that are coming that I have on the radar — I just don’t want to say what it is yet!

I welcome people to come to the Taylor House at 412 Main St. in Whitehorse at any time. I’ve made some changes in the office and opened up a new space in the area. The old Jim Smith office set-up has been moved and will be on display at the museum, and they were very happy to get it. So that frees up an area where we have a new space for people to come in.

Related stories from around the North: 

Canada: GG Mary Simon takes German president on tour through Tuk to see climate change, CBC News

Canada: Adeline Webber on being Yukon’s next commissioner, CBC News

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