First Nation resource deal in dispute

A resource deal with First Nations touted by the Yukon government has fallen flat. Premier Darrell Pasloski announced in October a new deal that could see self-governing First Nations earn up to $4.

A resource deal with First Nations touted by the Yukon government has fallen flat.

Premier Darrell Pasloski announced in October a new deal that could see self-governing First Nations earn up to $4.7 million annually in resource royalties above the government’s commitments under the Umbrella Final Agreement.

Although the government announced that agreement had been reached with First Nations, that now appears to not have been the case.

Three of Yukon’s 11 self-governing First Nations still have not signed on, putting the whole agreement in jeopardy.

Last week, a high-ranking official with the land claims secretariat issued an ultimatum to the First Nations that had yet to sign off.

“It is now time to determine whether there will be an agreement,” according to the email sent to the First Nations. “Accordingly, if we do not receive confirmation by 10 a.m. on Monday, March 25, 2013 that all First Nations will be participating in the agreement then we will conclude that it has been rejected by First Nations and we will consider this file closed. There will be no extension of this deadline, no further discussions and no conditional acceptance of the offer.”

It was an empty threat, as Pasloski has confirmed that he will continue to work with the remaining First Nations towards the goal of having them sign off on the agreement.

“In the past 24 hours, I have either spoken with or met each of the three chiefs whose First Nations had not yet signed and we had a good opportunity to hear any concerns and address any questions that existed and I’m optimistic that going forward we’ll have support of the self-governing First Nations on this agreement,” said Pasloski in an interview yesterday.

The Teslin Tlingit Council is one of the First Nations that has yet to sign.

One of their outstanding issues with the agreement is that it leaves out Yukon’s three unsigned First Nations.

“YTG and Canada have taken hundreds of millions out of Kaska territory in royalties from mining and natural gas, and have offered us nothing in return,” said Liard McMillan, chief of the unsigned Liard First Nation. “I have spoken to (Teslin Tlingit Council Chief Carl Sidney) and we understand their position.”

Sidney did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

The government would like to work with unsettled First Nations on economic agreements, but this particular agreement is specific to settled First Nations, said Pasloski.

“The unsettled First Nations have not settled aboriginal rights and title to their entire traditional territory, so they are different.”

In the fall, the premier defended removing the unsigned First Nations’ veto power over oil and gas development in their traditional territories by insisting that the government aims to “treat all First Nations equally.”

The resource deal was to be made official at the Yukon Forum, a formal meeting between the premier and chiefs.

A planned date for the meeting in December was cancelled after chiefs had already gathered in Whitehorse. The premier said that date had never been officially set.

The premier could not confirm when the next Yukon Forum will take place, but said that officials are working on it.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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