Ministers from Canada’s northern jurisdictions met last week in Whitehorse to discuss the North’s economic development challenges.
“We’ve had the opportunity to hear directly from our northern neighbours and see how they approach similar issues and share best practices,” said Scott Kent, minister of energy, mines an resources at a news conference. Kent was filling in for Yukon’s minister of economic development, Stacey Hassard.
“Over the past couple of days it was our privilege to talk about how… aboriginal involvement in economic development is crucial to the North’s future and current success,” said Kent.
Asked about the many disputes between the Yukon government and the territory’s First Nations, Kent said these clashes shouldn’t overshadow positive developments, like recent tourism investments with the Carcross-Tagish First Nation.
“There is a long list of collaboration and cooperation, there are issues where we don’t agree and unfortunately that often grab the most public attention,” he said.
Kent was also asked about the controversial Bill S-6, which will amend Yukon’s environment assessment legislation.
Yukon’s First Nations have threatened to sue over some of the amendments in the bill, saying those go against their aboriginal land claim agreements. While the bill is federal legislation, many of the controversial changes were requested by the Yukon government.
“The premier has reached out to First Nations and offered bilateral discussions to find ways through what their concerns are with S-6,” Kent said.
“We believe the amendments to the YESAA legislation will strengthen that legislation and help ensure we remain consistent and competitive with jurisdictions like Nunavut or the Northwest Territories.”
Collaboration with neighbouring jurisdictions is key, said Kent.
“What we learned and what this has re-affirmed for us is the value of collaborating with our neighbouring jurisdictions on shared interests and areas of concern,” he said.
“The North is no longer isolated, we’re connected.”
For next year’s forum, the ministers have decided to focus on food security in the North and how to strengthen relationships between “aboriginal and non-aboriginal governments when considering northern development.”
The 2016 forum will be held in Iqaluit.
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