A hat trick of sorts

The Yukon government has won a gold medal in an event that you may not even know existed: provoking lawsuits. In an impressive feat, the territory has racked up three of them in three weeks.

The Yukon government has won a gold medal in an event that you may not even know existed: provoking lawsuits. In an impressive feat, the territory has racked up three of them in three weeks.

In legal circles, we believe you call that a hat trick.

All these cases involve aggrieved First Nations. Two were triggered by the territory’s botched handling of plans for the Peel watershed, while the third was prompted by the government’s intentions to build a new campground near Atlin Lake.

A common thread ties these cases together. It’s that the Yukon government treats the constitutionally-entrenched rights of First Nations to be consulted on matters that affect them as a mere formality, to be checked off after a decision has already been made, rather than engaging these parties in a meaningful way, as if their input actually means something.

In the case of the Peel, the territory ignored seven years of planning talks to produce its own plan for the watershed, which does pretty much the opposite of earlier recommendations by opening up most of the region to mining.

As for Atlin’s First Nation, it first learned about the Yukon’s plans to build a campground on its traditional territory by reading news reports on the subject, and contends it hasn’t had nearly enough say on the matter.

Such complaints are not new. The Yukon Party has a knack for provoking them – and for losing the court cases that result.

This appears to be ingrained behaviour on the part of our leaders, difficult to shake no matter how many times their legal council has a chat with Justice Leigh Gower about the nature of First Nation rights.

Consider another recent lawsuit – after a while, it becomes difficult to keep track –

launched by the Ross River First Nation over its objections to mining laws that allow prospectors to use machinery and explosives on traditional territory without first seeking permission. A court decision forced the territory to change these rules on Ross River’s land, but the Yukon has refused to modify the rules on the traditional territory of the White River First Nation, which is in essentially identical circumstances, as a First Nation without a settled land claim. We suppose another lost lawsuit will be needed to sort that one out.

The court fight with the territory’s francophones, which also resurfaced this week, also fits into this pattern. It’s a victory of sorts for the Yukon government to see the appeals court toss out an earlier order to build a pricey new school for the territory’s French-speaking children, and it’s heartening to hear both parties are now trying to reach an amenable solution, rather than going through another trial.

But wouldn’t it have been much better to avoid the court case in the first place? The public has already footed more than $2 million in legal bills for this one case alone. The government hasn’t been so forthcoming about the costs of its other court battles, but suffice to say plenty has been wasted fighting cases that could have been avoided, had our government possessed a bit more diplomatic finesse. Instead, it’s almost as if the Yukon government goes out of its way to invite these fights, by communicating as little as possible, as late as possible, with affected parties.

As the pile of lawsuits grow, the Yukon Party runs the risk of eroding the belief, broadly shared since the settlement of land-claim agreements, that the Yukon is a legally stable place to do business. That in turn undermines the Yukon Party’s main schtick – that is, that they’re the guys who protect the territory’s economic prosperity. It may all come back to bite them during the next election. 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: The aesthetics and economics of highway strips

One of the many cultural experiences you enjoy while driving from Whitehorse… Continue reading

Submitted
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone.
Artwork by Grade 2 student Faith showing her thanks for everyone. (Submitted)
Yukon kids express gratitude for nature, pets and friends in art campaign

More than 50 children submitted artwork featuring things they are grateful for

Team Yukon skip Laura Eby, left, directs her team as Team Northern Ontario skip Krysta Burns looks on at the Scotties Tournament of Hearts in Calgary on Feb. 22. (Jeff McIntosh/CP)
Team Yukon reports positive experience at Scotties

Team Yukon played their final game at the national championship in Calgary on Thursday afternoon

A sign indicating a drop-off area behind Selkirk Elementary school in Whitehorse on Feb. 25. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Parking lot proposal for Selkirk Elementary criticized

Parents and school council are raising concerns about green space and traffic woes

adsf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 26, 2021

Tom Ullyett, pictured, is the first Yukoner to receive the Louis St-Laurent Award of Excellence from the Canadian Bar Association for his work as a community builder and mentor in the territory. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Tom Ullyett wins lifetime achievement award from the Canadian Bar Association

Ullyett has worked in the Yukon’s justice ecosystem for 36 years as a public sector lawyer and mentor

The Blood Ties outreach van will now run seven nights a week, thanks to a boost in government funding. Logan Godin, coordinator, and Jesse Whelen, harm reduction counsellor, are seen here on May 12, 2020. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Blood Ties outreach van running seven nights a week with funding boost

The Yukon government is ramping up overdose response, considering safe supply plan

Ranj Pillai speaks to media about business relief programs in Whitehorse on April 1, 2020. The Yukon government announced Feb.25 that it will extend business support programs until September. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Government extends business relief programs to September, launches new loan

“It really gives folks some help with supporting their business with cash flow.”

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

Bylaw amendment Whitehorse city council is moving closer with changes to a… Continue reading

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. As the legislature prepares to return on March 4, the three parties are continuing to finalize candidates in the territory’s 19 ridings. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Nine new candidates confirmed in Yukon ridings

It has been a busy two weeks as the parties try to firm up candidates

David Malcolm, 40, has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm a police officer after an incident in Whitehorse on Feb. 18. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Man resists arrest, assaults officer

A Whitehorse man has been charged with assaulting and attempting to disarm… Continue reading

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

Most Read