Yukon News

Chiefs stand by promise to sue over S-6

Jacqueline Ronson Monday March 30, 2015

Joel Krahn/Yukon News


Little Salmon/Carmacks Chief Eric Fairclough speaks at a press conference regarding Bill S-6 Monday morning in Whitehorse.

Court action by First Nations is a “virtual absolute certainty” if the federal government pushes ahead with controversial changes to Yukon’s environmental assessment legislation, said Tom Cove, director of lands and resources for the Teslin Tlingit Council.

Cove spoke this morning at a hearing in Whitehorse of the parliamentary standing committee on aboriginal affairs and northern development.

Five law firms have already been hired to start the work to prepare for the potential litigation, he said.

The Town Hall Room at the Gold Rush Inn was standing room only, with about 150 people in the public audience.

Parliamentarians present said it is one of the best attended committee meetings they have ever seen.

Seven MPs travelled to Whitehorse for today’s hearing to hear input on Bill S-6, which will amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

Representatives from eight Yukon First Nations as well as the Council of Yukon First Nations spoke to their shared opposition to four amendments they say were included in the bill at the last minute and without proper consultation.

The controversial bits of the proposed legislation 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.

A theme of the First Nations’ presentations this morning hinged on the fact that Yukon’s assessment legislation was born out of decades of joint negotiations between First Nations, the Yukon and Canada.

When First Nations signed land claims agreements, they gave up title to more than 90 per cent of their territory in exchange for promises that they would have active participation in land management decisions on Crown land, the committee heard.

The environmental assessment process as it exists today was born out of that collaborative process, and so were the amendments agreed upon during a mandated five-year review.

Any further amendments must also be born out of collaboration with First Nations, and these four amendments were not, the First Nations argued.

Premier Darrell Pasloski also addressed the committee this morning, and suggested that First Nations and the Yukon government work together on implementing Bill S-6.

“Let’s be leaders in our own house and negotiate a bilateral accord on implementation that resolves those issues,” he said.

“That olive branch is a little bit late,” said Steve Smith, chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

Yukon MP Ryan Leef asked Smith if First Nations would be happier to see Canada at that table, too.

Smith replied that the appropriate approach would be to remove the contentious amendments in Bill S-6 first, “then we can talk about a trilateral accord” to address the issues.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Tired of these shylocks! wrote:
7:48pm Friday April 10, 2015

Conservatives suck!

stuart schmidt wrote:
7:47pm Wednesday April 8, 2015

as one of the people who find myself in the middle of this i can only encourage all the parties to keep talking.  stuart schmidt

Jim Milley wrote:
7:30pm Monday April 6, 2015

Yesab is weak kneed enough without more changes to limit the little it can do now.
Here in Keno 30 of the 35 recommendations made by yesab were simply overturned or changed during the last round of yesab here to suit the YP’s twisted plan for development.
NNDFN must be thrilled to have Brad Thrall supporting the govt. plan while all the time bragging about the great relations they (ALEXCO) have with the first nation.
Here is a plan ...We get rid of the yukon party entirely and simply vote for a supreme court judge…seems all the decisions are made in court anyway!
Hey Brad if you were not such a scam artist, you wouldn’t have such a problem with our environmental laws here. Alexco is the first junior mining company that should be shown the door. This is not the third word here….if you want to conduct your business in the manner you have been, it is time for you to hit the trail ....might I suggest Guatemala.

the S-6 trap wrote:
6:59pm Monday April 6, 2015

Can the feds and territorial government suggest these amendments to bill S-6 with a straight face. Come now! A federal minister giving binding policy direction to YESAB and delegate responsibilities to the territorial minister? I hope the entire population of the Yukon does not have amnesia. Remember all the white elephant mines the taxpayers ended up having to clean up in the Yukon, AKA Faro, Elsa, etc? Who regulated those mines? The federal government, through Dept. of Indian Affairs. What a joke. They couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag, never mind being in charge of what YESAB is doing in the Yukon. We are on a very slippery slope here. Another change they want to YESAB is to give the Yukon govt. new powers to exempt projects from assessment in the event of a license renewal or amendment. I am laughing so hard my stomach hurts. The mining companies would be telling YTG what to do. And they would do it I can see it now, nothing would have to be assessed. When the federal government was in charge of environmental assessments in the Yukon, a mining company had to lay it all out. Every mine they wanted to mine in their lifetime had to be assessed. To see the cumulative effect. Those days are gone. They complain about the piecemeal reviews they have to undergo. And by the time a license is being renewed, things can have changed and should be assessed. We would be in very deep trouble if these amendments pass.

Premier taking the Yukon back words in a hurry wrote:
9:54am Sunday April 5, 2015

The Premier is taking the Yukon back words in a hurry. This is going back to a time of dictatorship.
I cannot believe we live in modern times are acting like the stone ages and cave men.

Premier give Fist Nations no choice wrote:
9:56am Saturday April 4, 2015

Premier give First Nations no choice. Just another bad decision by the Premier that is why he well be a one term Premier like the last liberal leader. The Yukon Party well win the next election but the Premier well lost his seat because there are to many people in his riding that don’t want him as premier. Yukon Party needs to call for leadership vote ASAP.

Groucho d'North wrote:
6:41pm Wednesday April 1, 2015

Apart from the UFA, the individual agreements and all the other legal mumbo-jumbo, this is getting tiresome. Only the lawyers are benefitting in this debate. It seems this is not about working together to share the rich resources of the Yukon as was one of the key objectives during the creation of the agreements; I remember it being said in speeches by Johnny O and the then CYI leadership. Turns out, it seems what this is all about is who has a veto on development and who gets the gravy when projects do get the go-ahead. Both sides in this debate need to smarten up and come to an agreement. Enough political posturing, our livelihoods are at stake here, and some of us have real jobs that depend on the fruits of our labor more than transfer payments. The part that really pisses me off is the trouble makers get the pensions while I have to eek out a living and get by with what I can save in an economy that is continually a political football. Smarten up!

YP Supporter wrote:
11:27am Wednesday April 1, 2015

We hope this legislation will be passed by our federal counterparts and then the contoversial amendments will be worked out with First Nations in a bilateral summit where all parties involved have equal power.

What this means is we have heard the concerns, will ignore them then try tp appease FN’s after we have more power and control. This is something they have experienced time and time again.

(ps I am not a YP Supporter I am just articulating their logic)

Jack Malone wrote:
10:07am Wednesday April 1, 2015

Rorex1983.  I guess if you read the SCC decision in Little Salmon/Carmacks and don’t understand it, what can I say.  Read paragraphs 108 and 119.  It is clear that there is a legal obligation on the Crown to make efforts to accommodate the concerns raised by the First Nation during the consultations - despite the limited language of the final agreements.  The duty to accommodate exists independently of the final agreements, unless the final agreements express otherwise.  This was the point of the case.

Yup wrote:
6:25pm Tuesday March 31, 2015

Me and all my buddies will rally behind our first nation friends on this one. Most of us understand the value of this territory and its time to oust this Divisive Yukon Party ( more aptly known as the ” club” )

Rorex1983 wrote:
4:44pm Tuesday March 31, 2015

@jack Malone

Maybe you should reread what you cited. This is a right of access for hunting and fishing for subsistence in their traditional territory case, not that any legislative change need accommodate the FN, but rather accommodate their right to hunt and fish in their traditional territory’s. If your implying that the amendments in this bill impede on the FNs right to hunt and fish in their traditional territory, then this would be case law worth citing. But I hardly think that’s the case.

From what I can tell you are an engineer Jack not a lawyer and it shows. Stick to what your good at reading technical specs not interpreting case law.

bobby bitman wrote:
2:22pm Tuesday March 31, 2015

Good old Pazloski.  Always the loyal soldier for the federal Conservative Party government.  And now offering to allow the FN chiefs into ‘The Gang’.  “Let’s work together to implement S-6!”

Gee Darrel!  That sounds like an awful lot of fun… but… Get stuffed.

jack Malone wrote:
1:19pm Tuesday March 31, 2015

@Rorex1983.  Perhaps you should know what you are talking about you post nonsense.  You say that “MIke Smith, former chief of the KDFN, is quoted as saying “the government has a duty to not only consult but also accommodate First Nations.” To which I disagree absolutely no where is this in the agreements.”  Buddy, the Supreme Court of Canada disagrees with you.  Go read: Beckman v. Little Salmon/Carmacks (2010).  Don’t quite your day job because you certainly aren’t a lawyer.

Rorex1983 wrote:
9:34am Tuesday March 31, 2015

I personally question the validity of the board anyways, reviewing the board member profiles it seems like none of them are really subject matter experts. Some have experience either mining or working for the Board but none seem to be relevantly educated and in fact in many of the situations one has to wonder about conflicts of interest.

It be fair I don’t know any of them but it certainly concerns me if this is who the FNs think is going to protect our environment.

Rorex1983 wrote:
9:24am Tuesday March 31, 2015

MIke Smith, former chief of the KDFN, is quoted as saying “the government has a duty to not only consult but also accommodate First Nations.” To which I disagree absolutely no where is this in the agreements. While a local Judge recent ruled (Peel) that the government has a duty to act in the spirit of the agreement, which is legal speak for this is not written in the agreement but in his opinion implied, this is no way means the duty to accommodate First Nations is legally required. That said you can guarantee that if this makes its way to court that the First Nations will win, given their track record and previous judicial rulings.

Undoubtedly the government knows this, which begs the question if you know you will lose on an issue if it goes to court, know the party will take it to court, why push the matter?  It makes me wonder if the government hasn’t switched its strategy to bankrupting FN bands. I mean at a rate of 2 or more large legal dust ups a year how long can the First Nation bands remain solvent?

Rorex1983 wrote:
9:16am Tuesday March 31, 2015

Since this article doesn’t mention what the four amendments are, I thought it would be important to mention them.

They are:
■delegation of federal powers to Yukon government;
■policy direction to the YESAA board;
■timelines for assessments; and
■exemptions from renewals and amendments

Anyone reviewing these would have to think that most of these relate to implementation and have no effect on FN rights.

The delegation of federal powers to the territorial government is simply put a matter of efficiency and makes absolute sense. Let those elected locally, make decisions about what happens locally, and how the bill is implemented. This is certainly better than leaving it up to the federal government and the remote management that would occur as a result.

Timelines for assessments again is simply a matter of implementation. Essentially every government services comes with an expected time for turnaround. Like for example the right to a speedy trial; mandatory reporting timelines for everything from stats, taxes, etc.; land titles; security checks; etc. Timelines are a normal part of regulations. Some see this as a way to prevent proper investigation but most people are not in a position to make a judgment about what a reasonable turn around time is. Having a timeline also prevents the board from Cherry picking projects to fast track.

Policy direction to the board is again a matter of implementation. Independent boards need mandated direction to develop criteria on which to base their opinion. This happens with every board, no quasi judicial board creates its own policy.

If the FN do sue it will really be about one thing and one thing only, that they were not consulted about 4 amendments, even though one might argue that this meeting qualifies a exactly that a consultation.

MzzPocahontas wrote:
8:41am Tuesday March 31, 2015

Does the government think natives are stupid enough not to see past thier smoke show ....talking about the mines… It isn’t about the mines and the government always has alternate plans and I know this is them trying to get a inch for fracking in the Yukon… I am proud to see the different FN nations standing together and not lose thier power to protect the land….evironmental assessments are important and vital to keeping our water ways, Marsh lands and animal habitats safe ...The government does not care about the land and is always looking for a way to rape the resources… I am trondekhwechin and I proud people are fighting against this… It is not a waste of money but a investment for our children’s children to take care of the land and leave them the role to keep taking care of it and show them and teach them the work that needs to be done….together untied they don’t have a chance to tear down our work to protect the land for future generations

Jackie wrote:
9:15pm Monday March 30, 2015

Interesting.  Is Tom Cove now the Chief of the Teslin Tlingit?  Who is making decisions for the First Nations and for what purpose?

Lee Carruthers wrote:
8:13pm Monday March 30, 2015

Aurora Lady: “Lovely, another lawsuit to eat away at the self governed FN money.” Yes, our dishonorable, right-wing governments, both federal and territorial, are working hard to try to overwhelm resistance to their corporate agenda. That’s our tax money they’ll be wasting on court action, rather than spending it on “housing, health and social issues.” I am so glad the First Nations are fighting on our behalf to save at least a little of what is left of our environment. ABC in 2015.

YTer wrote:
5:56pm Monday March 30, 2015

Aurora lady, that same comment could apply to the Yukon Government.  Lots of other, more useful projects could have been funded with the money that’s being used in issues like the Peel appeal.

Aurora Lady wrote:
3:09pm Monday March 30, 2015

Lovely, another lawsuit to eat away at the self governed FN money. Nope, don’t spend it on housing, health and social issues. Lets just lock it all up in court costs *SMH*

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