Indian Act changes won’t affect the Yukon

Changes to the Indian Act that have Idle No More protesters crying foul will have little impact on the Yukon.

Changes to the Indian Act that have Idle No More protesters crying foul will have little impact on the Yukon.

That’s because most Yukon First Nations have signed self-government final agreements that supersede the Indian Act altogether.

“These changes will not directly impact the self-governing Yukon First Nations. Each final agreement empowers the First Nation to administer settlement land according to their own self-determined priorities,” wrote Denise Antle, a spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, in an email.

Critics say these changes will make it easier for reserve lands to be parcelled off without the consent of the whole community. Idle No More supporters have also protested the unilateral nature of the changes, saying that First Nations have not been adequately consulted.

The changes in question would make it easier for First Nations to lease land, should they choose to opt-in to the new provisions, Antle explained.

“The proposed amendments will speed up the process to designate reserve lands, allowing First Nations the flexibility they require to take advantage of economic opportunities as they present themselves,” she wrote.

Eleven of the Yukon’s 14 First Nations have signed agreements in place. The three holdouts are the Ross River Dena Council, the White River First Nation and the Liard First Nation. They are still covered by the Indian Act.

The changes to the act are specific to reserve lands, however, and because the Yukon has no reserves anymore, neither Ross River nor White River will be affected by the changes.

Only the Liard First Nation will be affected by the proposed Indian Act changes because some of its people live on reserves in Northern B.C. and so are subject to the Indian Act changes.

There are 23 reserves in Northern B.C. that the Yukon branch of Aboriginal Affairs is responsible for. Of those, nine are part of the Liard First Nation, and the changes will affect those reserves. One of those is Lower Post, the home of the Daylu Dena Council.

Regardless of the protections offered by Yukon’s various final agreements, Idle No More organizer Cherish Clarke said that the territory’s First Nations have a duty to stand in solidarity with other Canadian First Nations in opposing the omnibus budget bill and other controversial pieces of legislation.

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