Letter to the Editor

A time to get involved The board of the Yukon Agricultural Association is hereby requesting the support of all Yukoners to protest and challenge the…

A time to get involved

The board of the Yukon Agricultural Association is hereby requesting the support of all Yukoners to protest and challenge the Yukon Supreme Court’s decision in favour of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation’s suit against YTG’s proposed grant of an agricultural lease on Crown land.

That court decision granted virtual veto power and control over all the Yukon to First Nations. If it stands, it will affect the rights and ability of all Yukoners to pursue any economic or other activity on Crown land.

Although YTG has already given notice of its decision to appeal the judgment, we believe the case is of such critical importance that all Yukoners need to join together to oppose Justice Ron Veale’s decision and support YTG’s challenge on appeal.

The Yukon Agricultural Association is considering applying to the court for intervenor status.

In order to pursue this option, however, we need the financial support of other organizations and individuals, as we have been advised that the cost of intervening may be as much as $20,000 to $30,000.

That sum will be a small price to pay as compared with the cost of losing the appeal and the impact on our rights if such loss were to occur due, in part, to sitting back and doing nothing.

We are therefore asking for the help of everyone who shares our deep concern over this issue.

Anyone who wishes to make a donation may bring or send it to our office in the TC Richards Building, 203-302 Steele Street.

Moreover, we encourage everyone to make this case their business and to do what they can to inform and mobilize people to oppose this court decision including personal appeals to friends and neighbours, starting telephone and letter-writing campaigns and participating in other forms of legitimate public protest.

Justice Veale’s decision impacts us all. It is, therefore, a community issue. It requires a community response.

Rick Tone, executive director, Yukon Agricultural Association, Whitehorse

Tone’s letter divisive

In his letter to the editor, Rick Tone, the executive director of the Yukon Agriculture Association, urged Yukoners to join together to oppose the recent decision of the Yukon Supreme Court in the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation case and support the Yukon government’s appeal of that decision.

This case involves the territorial government’s approval of a 65-hectare agricultural lease located near the settlement lands of the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.

This was done without meaningfully consulting the First Nation or Johnny Sam, one of its citizens who owns a trapline and cabin nearby.

The issue in this case is whether the duty to consult and accommodate applies to the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation and other self-governing Yukon First Nations in accordance with the legal principles established by the Supreme Court of Canada. The Yukon government maintained it does not.

We find the Yukon Agriculture Association’s letter promotes division and confrontation.

Our dispute is not with the mining, agricultural, outfitting or any other industry or sector in the Yukon.

Like all Yukoners, we want to see a vibrant economy here based on responsible and sustainable development. But we need to ensure the Yukon government is fully implementing our agreements in good faith and complying with the legal principles established by the highest court in Canada. 

We see Tone’s letter as an attempt to whip up a public furor based on fear and inaccuracies. We are not seeking any sort of veto with respect to the use of non-settlement lands.

The Yukon Supreme Court did not, as you wrote in your letter, find any sort of “virtual veto” in favour of First Nations.

But Justice Ron Veale did find the Yukon government had a duty to consult with respect to the agricultural lease application, and, where appropriate, to accommodate First Nation rights and interests based on the honour of the Crown and section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982.

He found there must be a dialogue on a government-to-government basis and not simply a courtesy consultation. He found that the Yukon government failed to meet the standard of reasonableness and, therefore, failed to discharge its duty.

It carried out the process in an unreasonable manner in refusing to engage the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation and conducting the environmental assessment after the Yukon government’s decision to approve the agricultural lease application was made.

We do not want to go to court. It is expensive, time-consuming and divisive, but the Yukon government leaves us no choice.

We have invested more than 30 years into the negotiation of our land claim agreements and we need to ensure that the integrity of these agreements are respected and implemented. We will not stand by and allow our agreements to be pushed aside and minimized. 

In closing, we invite Tone and the board of the Yukon Agricultural Association to meet with us to learn about our agreements and understand that we have common objectives.

We want certainty too. In fact, that is why we negotiated and ratified our land claim agreements. But it is the action of the Yukon government that is creating uncertainty in the Yukon.

Andy Carvill Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations, Whitehorse 

Fentie stands up to

First Nation and Mitchell

Re Failing the First Nations hurts Yukon (the News August 24):

I am writing in response to your open letter, regarding the decision by the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation to pull out of regulatory talks on the United Keno Hill mine project.

You must be aware that the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation has taken the position that all proposed activities on public land within its traditional territory must take place with its full knowledge, involvement and consent.

No previous Yukon government of any political stripe has ever agreed to grant a First Nation a veto over the disposition of Crown land within the traditional territory of that First Nation.

In fact, the fundamental basis of the Yukon land claims agreements is certainty over the disposition of Crown lands for public government in exchange for the land, monetary compensation and other rights and benefits for First Nation citizens, as set out in their respective final agreements.

It is obvious that the Yukon Liberal Party no longer supports these agreements. Your reckless disregard for the jurisdiction, rights and duties of public government in protecting the public interest of all Yukoners in the disposition of Crown land is shameful.

In your zeal to criticize our government’s role in the process for the remediation and reclamation of the United Keno Hill Mines, you failed to recognize that the process was ordered by the courts.

Further, under the Devolution Transfer Agreement, supported by all parties including the Na-Cho Nyak Dun, the federal government retains the responsibility for the remediation and reclamation of Type II Mine Sites, of which UKHM is but one example.

 I must also add that there has been extensive consultation and accommodation with Na-Cho Nyak Dun on the UKHM project over the last several years, which included a number of agreements that the government has lived up to.

This record of consultation and accommodation has all been documented.  The real issue here, however, is helping First Nations with capacity development to meet the many duties, responsibilities and obligations self-governing First Nations such as Na-Cho Nyak Dun are experiencing because of their Final Agreements. 

The Yukon Party committed to helping First Nations with capacity development in its 2006 election platform.

In keeping with this commitment, the Yukon Party government has now established an assistant deputy minister within the Executive Council Office entitled ADM of governance liaison and capacity development.

We wish to reassure all Yukoners that our government, unlike the Leader of the Yukon Liberal Party, respects the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun Final Agreement and will abide by its provisions including the Consultation Protocol our government has with Na-Cho Nyak Dun.

Premier Dennis Fentie