With the prospect of roadblocks and a mining ban looming in Kaska traditional territory, the First Nations’ leaders have agreed to meet with Premier Darrell Pasloski in a last-ditch effort to stave off further escalations.
The Liard First Nation’s Chief Liard McMillan said that the Kaska leaders are “cautiously optimistic” about Pasloski’s offer to meet on Dec. 7.
The Kaska’s biggest concern is the changes to the Oil and Gas Act and the removal of the unsigned First Nations’ veto power over proposed projects, including hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, said McMillan.
“We also have concerns with how the government has been acting and treating us on other substantive issues such as the Faro mine reclamation. We feel that one of the key ingredients to being able to work towards these challenges, first and foremost, is for this government to actually deal with things at the political level rather than letting the bureaucrats be the tail that wags the dog,” said McMillan.
On Monday, NDP Leader Liz Hanson asked Pasloski whether, as a show of good faith, the government would withdraw the amendment to section 13 of the Oil and Gas Act – the change that would strip the Kaska of their veto power and the biggest sticking point in the current fight.
He skirted the question, instead focusing on the “many different things” the Yukon government does to work with First Nations.
“I’ve written a letter to the Kaska Nation and have invited them to have a meeting with the Government of Yukon,” Pasloski said.
“They have acknowledged that they would, in fact, like to do so … We continue to work with them. At the meeting date, we will sit down with the Kaska Nation and have a strong discussion to really look at the opportunities there are for benefits to all members of the Kaska Nation and for all Yukoners.”
Pasloski did not say what topics would be discussed and declined to be interviewed on the subject.
On Tuesday, Pasloski was again asked whether he would withdraw the section 13 amendments.
“Ten years we have been working with the Kaska to come forward with an agreement on oil and gas in the southeast Yukon. We believe that it is important that we do treat all First Nations equally and that this veto creates inequality with the other First Nations – and we’re talking about First Nations that have actually signed modern-day treaties. So we believe firmly that we need to treat all Yukoners the same and we need to treat all First Nations equally the same,” said Pasloski.
Still, McMillan is hopeful the Dec. 7 meeting could help bring the two sides closer to an agreement.
“The actions by the premier over the next few days to a week will be critical to whether or not we’ll be able to bring our relationship with the Yukon government back on to more stable footing,” said McMillan.
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