government lands itself in hot water

Perhaps the government should consider the bigger picture before issuing agricultural leases in the Carmacks area.

Perhaps the government should consider the bigger picture before issuing agricultural leases in the Carmacks area.

You might remember that, in 2004, Larry Paulsen applied for land on Little Salmon/Carmacks traditional territory that overlapped Johnny Sam’s trapline.

The government granted Paulsen his land with little discussion with Sam or the First Nation.

And now it is in a landmark legal fight, on the public’s dime, appealing an earlier court loss because it failed to properly consult before approving Paulsen’s lease.

That appeal has yet to be heard. But it has far-reaching implications — even Ottawa has decided to involve itself in the case — and a second loss will probably send the matter towards the Supreme Court of Canada.

It’s a big deal.

Which brings us to Sarah Kruse’s agricultural lease application.

Kruse applied for two parcels of land totaling 130 hectares near McGregor Creek, about 50 kilometres outside Carmacks.

It sits in an area the Carmacks Renewable Resource Council has identified as a habitat-protection area under its fish and wildlife plan.

The area is thick with calving moose, bears and, when they actually make it through Alaska, spawning salmon.

The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board reviewed the application, severed 14 hectares from it, and recommended approval, provided Kruse builds a good sewage system, buys solid garbage cans and stores animal feed in bearproof containers.

The Yukon government accepted the board’s recommendation.

And that’s surprising, because the land overlaps Sam’s trapline, the same one that Paulsen’s lease compromised.

And it’s opposed by both the the Little Salmon/Carmacks and Selkirk First Nations, which object to the lease’s location. Both want the government to discuss where future agricultural land should be placed.

Again, the government stands accused of approving a lease before properly consulting First Nations on the matter.

The Kruse family have heard a lot about the lack of government consultation lately.

Sarah Kruse is the daughter of Carmacks Christian Fellowship president Jerry Kruse, who is currently in the process of building a church on a site that some local First Nation residents assert is a sacred burial site.

Some members of the First Nation assert the government failed to properly consult when it granted Jerry Kruse permission to build his church.

The whole matter is now on hold pending the collection of more community comment. The deadline for input is July 29.

This shows a significant disconnect between the goals of the territorial government and the expectations of the local First Nation.

Something is broken.

And the territory would be well advised to fix it before handing out more land in the area, especially agricultural land that overlaps Sam’s trapline.

The land-disposition process is dividing the community.

Aboriginal people are angry. Farmers are frustrated by the delays.

The strife and legal wrangling undermines certainty and reduces investment confidence in the territory.

Imposing such decisions erodes trust between the territory and First Nation governments.

And, more often than not, it leads to the First Nation and territory spending millions on lawyers.

It squanders goodwill, financial capital, human capital and public money.

The government should consider this before it rubber stamps further agricultural leases in the area. (Richard Mostyn)