The Council of Yukon First Nations has unanimously passed a resolution to ban fracking within the members’ traditional territories.
The CYFN represents nine of Yukon’s 14 First Nations.
Fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping pressurized water, sand and chemicals deep underground to blast apart rocks and release natural gas trapped inside.
The First Nations’ primary concern is the potential effects on water resources, said Ruth Massie, the council’s grand chief.
“Our water is fairly clean up here, and we’d like to leave it that way. The water is a drinking water source of many of the communities.”
The Yukon government has established a committee to review the potential risks and benefits of fracking in the territory before any permits for the practice are issued.
However, Premier Darrell Pasloski has also lauded the potential of Yukon’s rich oil and gas resources, leading critics to believe that the Yukon Party has its mind made up on the matter.
“They’re putting the cart before the horse, I think,” said Massie. “Fracking is probably just as new to them as it is to us. And you have to be careful when it affects water.”
Oil and gas development is most likely to occur within the traditional territories of the Vuntut Gwitchin in the north, and the Liard First Nation in the southeast.
Neither of those First Nations are members of the CYFN.
Chief Liard McMillan of the Liard First Nation has been an outspoken opponent of fracking.
However, he has not ruled out support completely, so long as development is done in co-operation with the First Nation.
Chief Joe Linklater of the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation said it is not ready to make a clear statement on whether or not it would support fracking within the traditional territory.
“We need to leave options open for future leadership and for future consideration rather than just cutting off any potential to make decisions in the future around this issue,” he said.
Even Massie wouldn’t rule out the possibility that member First Nations might support fracking at some point down the road, if it proves to be relatively safe.
“We have to finish our investigations before we can comment any further. If we don’t have all the information now, it’s hard to say.”
Given the information available today, the CYFN will not support it, said Massie.
She would like to see the government slow down and focus on responsible development, she said.
“Faster and newer isn’t always the best.”
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