Bill S 6 heads back to the House, without changes

A federal bill to amend Yukon's environmental assessment legislation is set to return to Parliament without changes.

A federal bill to amend Yukon’s environmental assessment legislation is set to return to Parliament without changes.

A parliamentary committee travelled to Whitehorse to hear from the public about concerns over Bill S-6, which will amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act.

Specifically, Yukon First Nations have said they will sue the federal government over four controversial provisions in the bill.

Those would allow a federal minister to give binding policy direction to Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Board and delegate responsibilities to the territorial minister. They would also give the Yukon government new powers to exempt projects from assessment in the event of a licence renewal or amendment, and impose new end-to-end timelines for assessments.

Despite hearing a day’s worth of testimony from Yukoners, the majority of which called for the removal or amendment of those sections, Conservative committee members voted yesterday to see the bill move forward unchanged.

“I’m very upset by the actions of the government with regard to Bill S-6, because in setting up these hearings in the Yukon, they actually set people up to think that they were going to listen to what they say, and to make changes in the bill,” said Liberal MP Yvonne Jones on the phone this morning.

NDP MP Dennis Bevington echoed the sentiment.

“It’s really frustrating to see what this government is doing,” he said. “To me, as a long-time northerner living in a territory, just as you guys do, we’re trying to gain more authority over our affairs, and I think in the Yukon this bill actually represents a retrogressive step.”

Both MPs criticized Yukon MP Ryan Leef for not attending yesterday’s meeting.

“Whenever there’s something of concern to my riding in a committee, I attend,” said Bevington. “That’s extremely important, that you do that.”

Leef said this morning that he is not a member of the committee, and had meetings yesterday for two other committees that he is a member of.

In addition, he met with Council of Yukon First Nations Chief Ruth Massie for an hour over lunchtime about Bill S-6, he said.

The bill will now return to the House of Commons for the reporting stage, where opposition parties will have a final chance to propose amendments. After that, it will proceed to third reading.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com

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