Unsettled First Nations have re-issued a call for the Yukon government to negotiate on free-entry claim staking in their territories.
The White River and Liard First Nations, along with the Ross River Dene Council and the Kaska Dene Council, issued a joint news release from the Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver, demanding that the government treat all of them the same when it comes to negotiation.
“At the end of the day, we’re at the same status in regards to land issue as Ross River,” said White River Chief Charles Eikland.
In 2011, Yukon Supreme Court ruled that the government has a duty to consult with the Ross River Dene Council before any mineral exploration work takes place in their traditional territory.
Eikland and the other chiefs want the government to agree that the court ruling applies to White River and Liard as well, but the government has repeatedly said White River has to wait its turn until the the government finishes negotiating with Ross River.
Speaking in a phone interview from Roundup, Eikland said he and the other chiefs are meeting with mining companies and everyone agrees that they want more certainty and transparency from the government when it comes to negotiation.
“We are entitled to sharing in mining royalties and taxes to ensure that our communities benefit meaningfully from resource development. Yukon will need [to] negotiate revenue-sharing models with us to reduce the uncertainty that is the norm in Yukon today,” Liard First Nation Chief Daniel Morris said in the release.
Eikland said that certainty would also help put industry at ease, and make it easier to attract companies to work in the Yukon, which is better for everyone.
“Across the country for decades, First Nations have had to use the courts to protect and advance their rights and benefits. We don’t understand why governments don’t understand that it’s beneficial for everyone to work together and to not resort to this adversarial approach, and be forced to use litigation instead of collaborative approaches,” Eikland said.
Resources Minister Scott Kent did not return a call for comment by press time.