Eddie Skookum’s “ecstatic” with the Supreme Court’s ruling the Yukon failed to properly consult the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation before approving an agricultural lease in its traditional territory.
“This is a huge win for all Yukon First Nations,” said the First Nation chief on Monday.
“This confirms what we’ve been saying all along — that the Yukon government did not engage in meaningful consultation with either Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation or elder Johnny Sam on that decision.”
The 65-hectare agricultural lease overlapped a trapline owned by Sam. It would have affected rights protected under the First Nation’s final and self-government agreements, Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale wrote in a 44-page judgment.
The government did not meet its duty to consult the First Nation and failed to consider the impact its decision would have on hunting and harvesting rights, said Veale.
“There must be a dialogue on a government-to-government basis and not simply a courtesy consultation,” he wrote.
“This will affect all First Nations now,” said Skookum.
“Our final agreement must be respected and honoured by the Crown and there must be meaningful dialogue on a government-to-government basis.
“The government cannot simply whittle away our rights in that respect.”
In the legislature, the Liberals have challenged the government to explain its failure to consult First Nations on issues.
The judge had “very strong words about how this government has treated a First Nation,” said Liberal leader Arthur Mitchell on Monday.
“This is a decision that has implications throughout the Yukon, not just in Carmacks,” he said.
“The judge said this Yukon Party government conducted only courtesy consultations; they were not meaningful.
“When is the premier going to fix the problem that he himself has created by failing to adequately consult with First Nations?”
Premier Dennis Fentie replied by reciting a litany of examples where the government has consulted with First Nations, such as in the Co-operation in Governance Act and the Children’s Act Review.
The Yukon government has 30 days to appeal the Supreme Court’s judgment.