Kaska ban exploration in southeast Yukon

Kaska leaders have announced a ban on all resource development in their traditional territory unauthorized by them. The chiefs met with Premier Darrell Pasloski Monday in Vancouver during the Mineral Exploration Roundup conference.

Kaska leaders have announced a ban on all resource development in their traditional territory unauthorized by them.

The chiefs met with Premier Darrell Pasloski Monday in Vancouver during the Mineral Exploration Roundup conference.

The Kaska were disappointed by the meeting, said Liard McMillan, chief of the Liard First Nation.

“The paternalistic attitude of the premier in dealing with the Kaska is just very disheartening and very discouraging,” he said.

The Kaska are not opposed to responsible development on their traditional territory, said McMillan.

They will honour their existing agreements with companies to do work on the land, and are open to negotiating new deals, he said.

“Those mining companies that come into our territory that engage with us early on and do so in a respectful fashion will receive equal treatment from us.”

Currently, the Kaska have agreements or are working on agreements with several mining companies, including Yukon Nevada Gold Corp., Yukon Zinc Corp., Silvercorp Metals Inc., Golden Predator Corp., and Selwyn Resources Ltd., said McMillan.

The Kaska leaders will meet with other companies at the conference this week to discuss opportunities in southeast Yukon.

At the meeting with the premier, the First Nation leaders proposed a “Kaska Round Table,” which would establish plans and timelines for resolving the issues of contention with the territorial government.

At the top of the agenda would be establishing a protocol for oil and gas development within Kaska territory, procedures for obtaining First Nation consent for resource work, and determining the fate of the order-in-council land parcels.

Those lands were set aside for the Kaska with the intention that they might become settlement lands if a treaty agreement were reached.

The Liard First Nation and the Ross River Dena Council have stated that they have no intention of signing a land claims agreement in the style of the Umbrella Final Agreement signed by 11 of the territory’s 14 First Nations.

But the premier rejected the roundtable out of hand, said McMillan.

“We can’t deal with a government that just first goes out and breaks legally binding agreements such as the 1997 MOA and then uses bully tactics at the table with us and basically tables a take-it-or-leave-it offer,” said McMillan.

The 1997 memorandum of agreement said that all unsigned First Nations will have veto power over oil and gas development in their traditional territory.

The Yukon Party government removed that power from the Oil and Gas Act in December.

The premier said this week’s meeting went well, and he was disappointed to learn that the Kaska felt otherwise.

“I thought the meeting went very well. I’m discouraged, I’m disappointed in the comments that they have made because I thought it was a very productive meeting.

“We had some very open and frank discussion about interests that we both agree are important to the people of southeast Yukon.”

Neither Pasloski nor McMillan would give details as to what was offered by the government in exchange for Kaska support for oil and gas development.

But McMillan said that it came out of negotiations held years ago, which eventually failed, but that under current market conditions the deal would essentially be worthless.

It was his fourth meeting with McMillan in two weeks, said Pasloski.

He is eager to move forward on the issue so that economic opportunities in the southeast Yukon can be accessed for all Yukoners, he said.

“The premier’s got tunnel vision in that regard,” said McMillan. “It’s not just about jobs and employment, it’s about proper accommodation for alienation of our aboriginal rights and title with this proposed development. It’s about protecting the environment.”

It’s also about opening up economic and business opportunities for the Kaska, he said.

“It’s my fear that things will continue to escalate.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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