Court battle over hunting licences concludes

A potentially precedent-setting case about how big game hunting licences and tags are handed out in the Ross River area wrapped up Wednesday.

A potentially precedent-setting case about how big game hunting licences and tags are handed out in the Ross River area wrapped up Wednesday.

The Ross River Dena Council and the Yukon government were in Yukon Supreme Court for two days over the issue.

Justice Ron Veale has reserved his decision with no word on when he might come back with an answer.

The First Nation is asking for a court declaration that the government has a duty to consult it before issuing hunting tags and licences for big game in the First Nation’s traditional territory.

On the other side, the government insists the First Nation’s concerns are not supported by any evidence.

The government has brought in lawyer Thomas Issac, an aboriginal law expert from Calgary, to argue its case.

Issac said the government has a good working relationship with Ross River Dena Council, particularly on wildlife matters.

“The instructions that I received from the government of the Yukon were very clear, that we wanted to put forward a fair, balanced defence,” Issac said outside the court.

“But it’s very difficult when there’s no evidence that you’ve done something wrong.”

The First Nation has already won a similar case dealing with the same block of land – about 63,000 square kilometres in the north end of the Kaska traditional territory, covering the communities of Ross River and Faro.

In that case two years ago, the court of appeal ruled the Yukon government needs to consult with unsigned First Nation governments, like Ross River, before a mineral claim is staked on its traditional lands.

The government tried to take the case to the Supreme Court of Canada but was denied.

New staking has been banned in the area ever since while the government consults and continues to work on updating the regulations.

While the First Nation’s lawyer, Stephen Walsh, says this latest case is “deja vu all over again,” Issac insists what Ross River wants now is different from the staking case.

In that case the First Nation had a problem with specific regulations. He called this latest request a wide-ranging declaration “that you couldn’t put four corners around.”

“In this case, Ross River has asked for a duty to consult prior to the issuance of licences and tags,” he said.

“So then it begs the question, well, what are we consulting on? Are we consulting on licences and tags? Are we talking about the decision around quotas? Are we talking about closed hunting season? Are we talking about setting conditions on permits?”

Walsh, meanwhile, has maintained it’s clear the government must consult prior to issuing hunting licences and big game tags for hunting inside Ross River’s traditional territory.

The First Nation is not seeking to be consulted on each individual licence. Instead, they want something more overarching at the beginning of the hunting season.

It is not challenging the way things have been done in the past, but wants the declaration from the court on any future decisions.

Walsh contends the Crown has a duty to consult when it has knowledge of potential rights and title of a First Nation and is considering an action that might impact those rights.

In this case, sport hunters could compete with the right of First Nations subsistence hunting.

Gord Zealand spoke on behalf of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, which was given intervenor status in the hearing.

Zealand told the judge issues like this could be taken to the Yukon Wildlife Management Board, which is made up of representatives from Yukon First Nations and from the Yukon government.

Walsh pointed out that the First Nation appointments are made by the Council of Yukon First Nations, and Ross River is not a part of that organization.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

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

Just Posted

Benjamin Poudou, Mount MacIntyre’s ski club manager, poses for a photo in the club’s ski rental area on Nov. 16. The club has sold around 1,850 passes already this year, compared to 1067 passes on Oct. 31 last year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Early season ski pass sales up as Yukoners prepare for pandemic winter

Season passe sales at Mount McIntyre for cross-country skiing are up by around 60 per cent this year

The City of Whitehorse will be spending $655,000 to upgrade the waste heat recovery system at the Canada Games Centre. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
New waste heat recovery system coming to the CGC

Council approves $655,000 project

Yukon First Nation Education Directorate education advocates and volunteers help to sort and distribute Christmas hamper grocery boxes outside Elijah Smith Elementary School on Feb. 23. (Rebecca Bradford Andrew/Submitted)
First Nation Education Directorate begins Christmas hamper program

Pick-ups for hampers are scheduled at local schools

Cyrine Candido, cashier, right, wipes down the new plexi-glass dividers at Superstore on March 28, before it was commonplace for them to wear masks. The Yukon government is relaunching the Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program as the second wave of COVID-19 begins to take place in the territory. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Yukon Essential Workers Income Support Program extended to 32 weeks

More than 100 businesses in the territory applied for the first phase of the program

Cody Pederson of the CA Storm walks around LJ’s Sabres player Clay Plume during the ‘A’ division final of the 2019 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament. The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28 in Whitehorse next year, was officially cancelled on Nov. 24 in a press release from organizers. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament cancelled

The 2021 Yukon Native Hockey Tournament, scheduled for March 25 to 28… Continue reading

Lev Dolgachov/123rf
The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner stressed the need to safeguard personal information while shopping this holiday season in a press release on Nov. 24.
Information and Privacy Commissioner issues reminder about shopping

The Yukon’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Diane McLeod-McKay stressed the need to… Continue reading

Keith Lay speaks at a city council meeting on Dec. 4, 2017. Lay provided the lone submission to council on the city’s proposed $33 million capital spending plan for 2021 on Nov. 23, taking issue with a number of projects outlined. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Resident raises issues with city’s capital budget

Council to vote on budget in December

Beatrice Lorne was always remembered by gold rush veterans as the ‘Klondike Nightingale’. (Yukon Archives/Maggies Museum Collection)
History Hunter: Beatrice Lorne — The ‘Klondike Nightingale’

In June of 1929, 11 years after the end of the First… Continue reading

Samson Hartland is the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines. The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during its annual general meeting held virtually on Nov. 17. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Yukon Chamber of Mines elects new board

The Yukon Chamber of Mines elected a new board of directors during… Continue reading

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and — unsurprisingly — hospital visitations were down. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Annual report says COVID-19 had a large impact visitation numbers at Whitehorse General

The Yukon Hospital Corporation has released its annual report for 2019-20, and… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read