Feds table legislation to repeal parts of Bill S 6

The Trudeau government has taken a first step toward repealing parts of Bill S-6, which made controversial changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act when it was passed last year.

The Trudeau government has taken a first step toward repealing parts of Bill S-6, which made controversial changes to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act when it was passed last year.

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett tabled Bill C-17 in the House of Commons this week, which would scrap the four amendments in Bill S-6 that have caused several Yukon First Nations to file a lawsuit.

Those four provisions imposed timelines on assessments and allowed permit renewals and amendments without new assessments. They also allowed the federal minister to give binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, and to delegate authority to a territorial minister.

“Ensuring sustainable resource development that respects indigenous rights is a key component of restoring public trust in environmental assessments,” Bennett said in a statement on Wednesday.

Bill S-6 was passed by the Harper government in June 2015, but the federal Liberals made an election campaign promise to repeal the offending amendments.

Now, they appear to be making good on that commitment.

“I think this will sort of reinstate the confidence with First Nations that they’re being taken seriously as an equal partner in the development of and implementation of environmental assessment legislation,” said Yukon’s Liberal MP, Larry Bagnell.

He also pointed out that it’s unusual to see federal legislation specifically targeting the Yukon.

“Yukoners are having a say now,” he said.

Bagnell said the government can call the bill for debate at any point, but it’s unlikely that will happen before the fall sitting. Still, he said it’s possible the controversial amendments could be repealed before Christmas, as it’s unlikely the bill will garner much debate.

“I think a majority of members of Parliament won’t even know what it is,” he said.

Chief Carl Sidney of the Teslin Tlingit Council said the tabling of Bill C-17 is a good sign.

“Basically the Liberal government promised that they’re going to have a working relationship with First Nations,” he said. “And this is a good indication that they’re walking the talk.”

In October, the Teslin Tlingit Council, the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation filed a lawsuit in Yukon Supreme Court to fight the amendments in Bill S-6, after months of threatening to do so.

Sidney said that court case is still pending, but the hearing has been delayed until December, giving the federal government time to follow through on its promise.

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski declined to comment on the new bill, though he said in a statement that the Yukon government is “committed to working with the Government of Canada and First Nations on the YESAA legislation and its implementation.”

Pasloski has largely avoided wading into the fray around Bill S-6 since it became law, arguing that it’s federal legislation. After the federal election last fall, he claimed his government would “not be a barrier” if the new Liberal government did repeal the four provisions.

But during a campaign visit to Whitehorse last fall, former prime minister Stephen Harper said it was the territorial government that requested the changes to the assessment act laid out in Bill S-6.

The Yukon government has also spoken out against YESAB more recently, after oil-and-gas exploration company Northern Cross filed for a judicial review of the board’s decision to refer its Eagle Plain drilling project to a higher level of assessment.

“Generally, I feel that the YESAB process has kind of wavered and is creating problems for businesses in the Yukon,” said Economic Development Minister Stacey Hassard in March.

But to date, the Yukon government has not suggested that any more changes are needed to the YESAA legislation.

For his part, Sidney claimed the YESAB process is working well as it is. He said the assessments cost companies money upfront, but they’re designed to prevent messy, expensive clean-ups down the road.

“It ain’t going to cost you in the end, if you do the job properly,” he said. “Of course, it’s a very good process, as long as people follow it.”

Meanwhile, three of YESAB’s seven board appointments expired this week, while two others remain empty.

Wendy Randall was re-appointed as chair and a member of the executive committee on Wednesday. Dale Eftoda has also been appointed to the executive committee, replacing Ken McKinnon. The three other appointments are expected shortly.

Contact Maura Forrest at

maura.forrest@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

From Whitehorse to the Whitecaps

Joe Hanson is starting his second season with the Vancouver Whitecaps academy

Mount Lorne Mis-Adventure Trail Race doesn’t miss a step

Blue skies and sunshine for a chilly fall race

Canada Summer Games postponed

Yukon Canada Summer Games athletes will now work on mastering skills in preperation for 2022

Site selection for battery project draws ire of nearby landowners

Yukon Energy is accepting public comments on three possible sites for the project

Taking a closer look at the cosmos

Star gazing party scheduled for Sept. 18

Yukon government releases new guidelines for COVID-19 symptoms and sending children to school

The advice sorts symptoms into three categories: red, yellow and green

Nominations closed in Watson Lake byelection

Four candidates are running for mayor

Baggage screening changes begin

Passengers are asked to arrive earlier than normal in order to accommodate the new temporary system

Yukon Government extends education review

The final report is scheduled for release in March 2021

City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Lawsuit against Freedom Trails settled

The suit was dismissed with consent of all parties

Tank farm takes another step towards development

OCP designation passes second reading

Climate change strategy targets 30 per cent reduction in territory greenhouse gases by 2030

The strategy includes rebates for electric vehicles but puts off mining targets for two years

Most Read