Government will appeal landmark land claim judgment

Legal experts suggest Justice Ron Veale may have “erred” in his recent judgment on an agricultural lease, said Premier Dennis Fentie…

Legal experts suggest Justice Ron Veale may have “erred” in his recent judgment on an agricultural lease, said Premier Dennis Fentie Thursday.

Veale ruled the government did not consult a First Nation before approving an agricultural lease in its traditional territory.

Now, the Yukon government is appealing Veale’s decision that quashed a 65-hectare agricultural lease in Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation’s traditional territory.

The agricultural lease overlapped a trapline owned by elder Johnny Sam and would have affected rights protected under the First Nation’s final and self-government agreements, Veale found in his 44-page judgment.

The government did not meet its duty to consult the First Nation and consider the impact its decision would have on hunting and harvesting rights.

“As public government responsible for the public interest, we are obligated to appeal this decision to ensure clarity of our agreements,” said Fentie.

Legal experts from inside and outside the territory have reviewed the judgment and found “the judge erred in his ruling,” said Fentie.

Meanwhile some First Nation leaders and the opposition are citing the judgment as a harsh indictment of Fentie’s poor relationship with First Nations.

“This decision should send a loud wake-up call to the Yukon government that this is not acceptable,” Council of Yukon First Nations grand chief Andy Carvill said in a release.

This is not the first time the Yukon government has failed to consult with First Nations before making decisions that directly impact them, said Carvill.

“This is happening all too often,” he said. “In fact, a number of Yukon First Nations have pending court cases against the Yukon government for failing to live up to the consultation requirements set out in their self-government and land claim agreements.”

Little Salmon/Carmacks chief Eddie Skookum was “ecstatic” with the judgment, he told the News in a recent interview.

And the Liberals brought the issue into the legislature this week.

“Yukoners of all stripes realize that in order for this territory to progress and move forward, this government needs to stop their continual head-butting with the First Nations,” said Liberal Leader Arthur Mitchell.

“We cannot move forward if the government is continually being dragged into the courts for failing to honour its obligations.”

The appeal was filed in Yukon Supreme Court on Thursday.

Media was denied access to the appeal file.

It is not known when the case will be heard.