Trust the surface board process

Recently there has been much wringing of hands regarding overlapping land tenure issues among mineral claim holders and First Nation settlement land.

Recently there has been much wringing of hands regarding overlapping land tenure issues among mineral claim holders and First Nation settlement land.

So much so, that it makes me wonder if there is an election looming.

Calls have been made to update Yukon’s “century-old” mining legislation, but our legislation is not at fault here.

In fact, our legislation has constantly been updated throughout the years making it among the most progressive in the world, involving state-of-the-art environmental screening and reclamation techniques and ensuring community and First Nation input.

Furthermore, our current legislation already allows for a process to resolve these disputes.

There has been criticism that “the government” hasn’t done anything to resolve this issue.

Perhaps the Yukon Party government could have done something to address this conflict over their last three terms in power, but neither the claim holders nor the First Nations actively lobbied them to intervene.

The Yukon government did not address this matter when it was first raised in 2002 under the Liberal Party government.

Nor did the New Democratic Party government address it in 1998 when the Tr’ondek Hwech’in Final Agreement was signed.

Furthermore, the First Nation did not pursue a settlement with the claim holders prior to investing millions of dollars in their residential development.

And the claim holders have done nothing to conclude their negotiations with the First Nation since they were last initiated 14 years ago.

The origins of this conflict go back to the land selections and negotiations which preceded the signing of the historic Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA), and yet the federal government’s negotiators chose not to address it then either.

There is plenty of blame to go around.

However, the potential for such conflict is why the Yukon Surface Rights Board was created and enshrined in the UFA.

The board was created to address these very issues and the current conflict is before them for their consideration.

Dozens of families have made the lands in question their homes for many years now and it is preposterous to suggest that they should have to move.

But the claims in question were staked more than a decade before the land claim agreement was signed, and have been kept in good standing since.

While it may be an inconvenient truth for some, that means there is likely some compensation in order for the claim holders who are unable to access their legally-acquired interests.

Just how much compensation is among the matters to be considered by the YSRB.

I suggest the politicos and pundits do their job and focus their energy on providing the health care, education and employment opportunities our children require to succeed, and let the Surface Rights Board and the UFA do their job.

Mike McDougall, President

Klondike Placer Miners’ Association

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