Kaska fight to keep veto over oil and gas

The standoff continues between the Liard First Nation and the Yukon government over the proposal to remove the First Nation's veto power over oil and gas development.

The standoff continues between the Liard First Nation and the Yukon government over the proposal to remove the First Nation’s veto power over oil and gas development.

The government has proposed changes to the Yukon’s Oil and Gas Act, including removing a clause which guarantees unsigned First Nations the right to block any oil or gas development within their traditional territory.

In the legislature last week, NDP MLA Jim Tredger called out the government for what he believed to be inadequate and out of date consultation on the changes.

“Will the premier abandon this confrontational approach and properly engage First Nation governments in meaningful consultation on the Oil and Gas Act before any amendments are tabled?” asked Tredger.

Resource Minister Brad Cathers insisted that the government has exceeded its duty to consult.

The consent clause was written on the understanding that all of Yukon’s First Nations would sign land claims agreements, said Cathers.

While 11 First Nations signed on to the Umbrella Final Agreement, three remained unsigned, including the Liard First Nation. Its chief, Liard MacMillan, insists that the consent clause was a requirement for the Yukon to acquire control over its oil and gas resources, previously held by the federal government.

In 1997, Yukon’s First Nations signed a memorandum of understanding that detailed the requirement for the consent clause within the Oil and Gas Act.

In the legislature last week, Cathers called these agreements “lapsed” and insisted that Tredger cited “obligations that do not exist.”

The government has yet to bring forward evidence that the consent clause had an expiry date, or was conditional on the intention to sign a land claim.

The Liard First Nation announced in September that it would ban oil and gas development in their traditional territory until the government comes to the table on pressing issues.

The First Nation has called for a review of how the Faro mine reclamation project is being administered by the government, and would also like to see more good-faith negotiation with the government towards agreements on development within their territory, said MacMillan.

“We just feel that we’re not making any headway despite our good faith efforts, despite the Kaska’s good faith efforts, to have meaningful agreements that recognize our unsurrendered aboriginal rights and title, as well as ensure adequate accommodation for our interests in terms of employment and economic opportunities.”

MacMillan worries about the consequences of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in an area of the Yukon with significant biodiversity and importance to bird and small mammal species.

“They’re moving into Kaska traditional territory to try and frack it and basically turn it into Yukon’s industrial wasteland, basically a toilet bowl.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com