North Yukon First Nations sign resource declaration

Three northern Yukon First Nations are reiterating their opposition to fracking in all forms and calling on the government to improve mining legislation.

Three northern Yukon First Nations are reiterating their opposition to fracking in all forms and calling on the government to improve mining legislation.

Chiefs of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation signed a declaration last week. It lays out the First Nations’ position on the use and protection of resources on their traditional territory.

“The goal of the declaration is to ensure that future generations have the same opportunity to practise their culture and to live off the land as past and present generations,” Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Bruce Charlie said.

The declaration is made up of eight articles, including one stating that the First Nations are “unequivocally opposed to all forms of hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in our traditional territories. This includes fracking for both exploratory and extractive purposes.”

The three First Nations made a similar statement last year after signing the North Yukon First Nations intergovernmental accord.

All three First Nations are opposed to the current mining regime in the Yukon, the declaration says.

“Both the Yukon Placer Mining Act and the Yukon Quartz (Mining) Act are profoundly inconsistent with our final agreements and common law,” it reads.

“The present mining regime in Yukon must be fundamentally overhauled in order to become consistent with our agreements and modern values.”

The declaration also calls for new oil and gas legislation.

“Final agreements require that governments consult with Yukon First Nations before making decisions that could negatively impact Yukon First Nations’ rights and interests,” Charlie said.

“Yukon mining legislation assumes that mining is the highest and best use for most of the land in Yukon. This is not consistent with the structure of the final agreements.”

Charlie said he would like to see more local First Nations knowledge be used at all stages of the mining process.

The First Nations say the declaration is not meant to stop economic development.

“It is about supporting a sustainable economy that respects our First Nations’ values,” Trondek Hwech’in First Nation Chief Roberta Joseph said in a statement.

“The recent territorial election gives us hope, and we encourage the new government to work alongside us to build a regional economy that protects the environmental and cultural heritage of north Yukon.”

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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