No new royalty deal for First Nations

Despite the Yukon government celebrating a revised sharing deal with Ottawa, First Nations' requests to amend their current agreement with the territory have been turned down.

Most Yukon First Nations aren’t seeing much, if any, of the royalties collected from mining in the territory.

Despite the Yukon government celebrating a revised sharing deal with Ottawa, First Nations’ requests to amend their current agreement with the territory have been turned down.

“I’m not considering a change in the Umbrella Final Agreement,” Premier Darrell Pasloski told the News on Wednesday.

That agreement caps First Nations’ 50/50 share of the territory’s royalties at $2 million. The territory’s aboriginal leaders have been asking Pasloski to renegotiate those terms since February.

Under the territory’s new deal with Ottawa, the Yukon’s cap has been lifted to $6 million, from $3 million. The territory also has the option to later switch to another formula, which would see the territory and Ottawa equally split resource revenues.

But the deal offers nothing new to Yukon’s First Nations. By comparison, the Northwest Territories’ revised devolution agreement offers its aboriginal governments a 25 per cent share of royalties.

Pasloski said he isn’t willing to open up the Umbrella Final Agreement because it “is a document that took a long time.”

But the same could be said of the territory’s devolution agreement, which was just amended.

“Not to the same extent, I would believe,” said Pasloski. “My point is that I don’t think that has to be the vehicle to look at what we do with First Nations,” he said. “There are other ways to do it … You could come up with a new agreement that’s over and above or outside the UFA.”

Pasloski said his government continues to discuss royalty sharing with First Nations.

As it stands, the entire share of mining royalties allowed to flow to First Nations is being consumed by the Selkirk First Nation. It profits from Capstone’s Minto mine being on its Category A lands.

In 2010, Capstone cut a royalty cheque worth $5.9 million for the First Nation.

That’s more than the $4.7 million the territory collected in resource revenues that year. The Yukon government only needs to share with First Nations if it collects more royalties than aboriginal governments do.

But no matter what the cut is for Yukon First Nation governments, all Yukoners – including First Nation citizens – will benefit from the territory’s new deal, said Pasloski.

“It’s revenue that comes to the government that allows us to build schools and pay for teachers and pay for doctors and all of those things that all Yukoners benefit from every day.”

Self-government was intended to one day see Yukon First Nations do all these things for their own citizens. But the Umbrella Final Agreement was signed nearly 20 years ago.

“Back when land claims were being negotiated, no one foresaw how big the mining revenues were going to be,” said Chief James Allen, of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, back in April. “Between Canada and the Yukon, they have looked at a new formula for royalty sharing and we, as First Nations, would like to see a new formula developed between ourselves and the territorial government, too.”

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at

roxannes@yukon-news.com

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