The Yukon Party government isn’t keeping its campaign promises to conduct meaningful consultations with First Nations governments over land agreement issues, says the Council of Yukon First Nations.
Instead the government is using the courts to settle disagreements, the council says.
And frequent court cases over land claim settlements are straining CYFN’s relationship with the Yukon government, said Grand Chief Andy Carvill.
Government to government dialogue has, for decades, been used to solve problems instead of litigation, which often harms relationships, and is costly and protracted, said Carvill in a prepared statement to the media.
The remarks followed a closed-door session at CYFN’s general assembly.
In it, the council discussed the government’s appeal of a recent Supreme Court decision, which said the Yukon government did not properly consult with the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation before handing a parcel of land to a local farmer.
“The chiefs expressed frustration and disappointment that YTG has decided to continue the dialogue in the court rather than pursuing a resolution by way of sitting down and discussing the matter,” said Carvill.
In addition to updating CYFN members on its application for intervener status in the appeal process, the general assembly addressed individual cases of litigation with the territorial government.
Delegates unanimously passed a resolution stating their support to the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation in its legal battles.
The resolution also called on the Yukon Party to honour its obligations to consult First Nations people about land use.
“I’m hoping our relationship does get better because it’s getting ridiculous,” said Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Darren Taylor.
“Now we have every First Nation (involved) in litigation with this government. There’s issues around tenure, land dispositions, our rights to harvest, lack of consultation.”
Consultation agreements are not working, said Taylor, adding that he is tired of making side deals and First Nations have to rely on agreements and their provisions.
“The three northern premiers are talking to industry and really opening up the Yukon to a free grab and we haven’t been part of those discussions yet.
“The government is really putting a wedge between First Nation issues and local issues. We just end up fighting with each other.”
More lobbying and legislative work is needed and CYFN should spend more time in Ottawa with ministers and bureaucrats making their case for land-agreement implementation, said Taylor.
“The Yukon government is just a signatory (but) they’re interpreting our agreements basically the way they see fit,” he added.
The in-camera session saw delegates sharing frustrations about attempts to get a clear picture of legal troubles, which the Yukon government says are only “isolated incidents,” said Taylor.
CYFN will be taking the legal issues to the public if the Yukon government continues to pursue issues in courts, said Carvill.
“We’ve called on the premier before to halt this and sit down with First Nations. If our calls continue to go unheeded, the relationship will be strained,” said Carvill.
“If we continue to head down this path and have industry and others steamroll over First Nations and our rights with respect to consultation, what cost is that?”