The Liberal government was correct to vote against changes to the Oil and Gas Act, according to the Premier and Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston.
The clause would have reinstated a First Nation consent clause into the law. It was introduced to the legislature by the Yukon NDP this fall.
“Clearly, consensus was not there for the NDP’s bill,” Premier Sandy Silver told reporters Nov. 29 following the Yukon Forum.
“Whether it’s on old amendments to Oil and Gas Acts or conversations about [the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples] specifically, the First Nations absolutely need to be leading in that conversation, not the political.”
Silver and his cabinet, Johnston and Yukon First Nations chiefs met in Carcross at the 23rd Yukon Forum since signing the Working Together declaration in January 2017.
Silver and Johnston made statements and responded to questions from reporters in a joint press conference held after the forum.
Johnston said the group discussed priorities for the upcoming Yukon Days meetings with federal ministers in Ottawa, the Wildlife Act, commitments regarding the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls to action, as well as the Oil and Gas Act.
Bill 306 would have restored the right of Yukon First Nations without a signed final agreement to consent to oil and gas activity in their territory, according to the NDP.
Eight groups including the Council of Yukon First Nations, Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, Carcross/Tagish First Nation, Teslin Tlingit Council, Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation wrote letters in support of the bill that were tabled in the legislature. That list includes two out of three Yukon First Nations without final agreements.
Johnston implied those letters of support are not enough.
He said Silver has committed the Yukon government to discuss the matter “once more” with First Nations senior officials.
“It’s very important, how we deal with not only oil and gas, but also how we deal with the non-settled nations that do have respective rights under the constitution of Canada,” Johnston said.
The meeting marked Silver’s final Yukon Forum as Premier.
Silver said he believes he has achieved his mandate related to the Yukon Forum during his time as premier. The premier’s mandate letter indicates the Yukon government will, as part of its commitment to “uphold and promote the spirit and intent” of the Yukon First Nation final and self-government agreements, advance the work of the Yukon Forum.
Johnston gave “accolades” to the premier and his team, as well as First Nations leadership.
“This forum has not only advanced and moved the needle forward when it comes to Yukon priorities, but also the importance of building good governance through co-governance and good relationships based on mutual respect [which] I think is the foundation for which we stand upon today,” he said.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org