A federal bill that will undo controversial amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA) passed its third reading in the House of Commons in Ottawa Nov. 9.
That means that Bill C-17, which will repeal the four changes introduced under Bill S-6 in 2014 and was adopted without amendments, is now three Senate readings away from becoming law.
In a statement posted to his Facebook page, Yukon MP Larry Bagnell said he is “very proud of the work” that Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett and the government have done “to honour our commitments to Yukon First Nation and restore certainty to the mining industry.”
“The changes put forward in the previous government’s Bill S-6, were brought in without consultation and negotiation with Yukon’s First Nations, with whom YESAA was originally negotiated,” Bagnell said.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get Bill C-17 passed expeditiously.”
Bagnell did not respond to requests for comment.
Bill S-6 has long been a point of contention with Yukon First Nations, who said they weren’t properly consulted about its provisions and that they violated First Nation self-governing agreements. Three Yukon First Nations — the Teslin Tlingit Council, Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation and Champagne and Aishihik First Nations — launched a lawsuit over S-6 but put it on hold after the then-newly-elected federal Liberal government promised to repeal it.
In a statement, the Council of Yukon First Nations said it was “pleased” at the news of C-17’s passing.
“We have been working with both the Federal and Territorial governments to ensure the Final Agreements are being honoured,” CYFN Grand Chief Peter Johnston said in the statement.
“While we are not there yet, this is a significant step to ensure that the YESAA process is consistent with the provisions of our land claim agreements…. Bill C-17 supports the restoration of confidence in Yukon’s environmental and socio-economic assessment process while protecting the integrity of our Agreements.”
The Teslin Tlingit Council and Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation did not respond to requests for comment. The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations directed the News to the statement from CYFN.
Some members of the Yukon mining and exploration industry are expressing concern, though, that no replacement language or legislation has been put in place yet to preserve two provisions they say have resulted in improvements for the industry — namely, one allowing for permit renewals or amendments without requiring a whole new new project assessment, and another sets out time limits for assessments.
“I would just urge all parties to convene a meeting of the parties which includes industry,” Yukon Producers Group project manager Jonas Smith said in an interview. Smith was among the three mining industry representatives who travelled to Ottawa in October to urge a deferral on voting on C-17 until the preservation of the two S-6 provisions could be addressed.
“There is a time and place for government-to-government relations,” Smith said. “YESAA is a tri-party agreement between Canada, Yukon and First Nations. Industry fully understands and respects that, but at the end of the day, industry is the ones who use this legislation on a daily basis and we are also the ones who create jobs and generate tax revenue for public governments in this territory, so the time has come to engage industry in these discussions.”
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