Liard First Nation sues EMR

The Liard First Nation is suing a Yukon mining officer for not consulting or accommodating them before approving an exploration project. Judy St.

The Liard First Nation is suing a Yukon mining officer for not consulting or accommodating them before approving an exploration project.

Judy St. Amand, the chief of mining for land use in the Energy, Mines and Resources Department, approved a five-year proposal to carve new trails, trench 300,000 square metres of soil and begin exploratory drilling at the Stratagold-owned Hyland property near Watson Lake, without getting consent from the First Nation, court documents allege.

Amand did provide a two-week period for the Watson Lake-based First Nation to respond to the proposal, with a deadline set for March 13.

The First Nation’s land-use manager was away on leave and the chief and council were busy with other economic issues when the notice arrived, say Liard’s court documents, and it wasn’t until March 11 that the proper authorities were aware of Amand’s missive.

The First Nation responded on March 16, asking Amand to arrange a meeting.

But on April 20, Amand approved the proposal without the meeting, and the First Nation discovered the approval when it was posted on the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Board’s website in early June.

Liard is demanding an order revoking the approval. It also wants a declaration that no regulatory approval go ahead without adequate consultation, and a statement that the Energy, Mines and Resources Department breached its procedural and constitutional duty to consult with the Liard First Nation.

The land around the Hyland property is used by Liard and other Kaska people to hunt, fish and gather medicines, and Energy, Mines and Resources knew, or should have known, that Liard has a good case for claiming aboriginal rights and title to the land, say court documents.

Liard does not have a land claims agreement and has taken the Canadian government to court for not properly compensating it in accordance with the 1870 Northwest Territories treaty.

The Hyland property consists of nearly 300 mining leases spread over a 6,186 hectare-area, 70 kilometres northeast of Watson Lake. Exploration at the property began in the 1970s, but has greatly increased since the late 1990s, according to court files.

Stratagold, a Vancouver-based exploration company with several properties in the Yukon and Guyana owns Hyland and is also named as a defendant in the case.

In a response filed by Stratagold’s lawyer, Graham Lang, the company states that it has no knowledge of the chain of events that led to the mining approval, and the case is between the Liard First Nation and the Yukon government.

Calls to Liard Chief Liard McMillan were not returned.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com.