Don’t delay C-17

Bill C-17 helps protect the Yukon’s environment. Parliament should not delay approval of it

On Oct. 3 the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs heard from representatives of the Yukon mining industry regarding an upcoming piece of Federal legislation — Bill C-17 — that would repeal sections of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA). 

The main request of the Yukon mining industry is that Bill C-17 should be put on hold until certain wording for reassessments and timelines that meets with their approval is inserted into YESAA. The Yukon Conservation Society strongly disagrees with this delay.

You will recall that in 2015 the Yukon and Federal governments, via Bill S-6, made substantial changes to YESAA. The most contentious changes had to do with: ministerial authorization, exemption of projects from reassessment when an authorization is renewed or amended, establishing time limits for project assessments, and authorization of binding policy directions to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

These changes were fiercely opposed by the Yukon Conservation Society.

Yukon First Nations launched a lawsuit against the federal government, arguing that the changes to YESAA undermined the Umbrella Final Agreement and violated land claim agreements. After an intergovernmental forum in Whitehorse in the spring of 2016, an memorandum of understanding was signed between First Nations, the Yukon government and federal government to repeal the four contentious amendments to YESSA made under Bill S-6. First Nations governments agreed to set aside their court case until the legislation to repeal the changes is passed, and once that happens, they will drop the lawsuit.

Fast forward to the present. Bill C-17 undoes the worst aspects of the 2015 changes that weakened YESAA. Bill C-17 helps protect the Yukon’s environment. Parliament should not delay approval of it. Undo the historical wrongs of 2015, protect the Yukon’s environment, and pass Bill C-17 now.

Lewis Rifkind

Yukon Conservation Society