A group of Kaska people say they are being ignored by the Yukon government and their own First Nation leadership on the question of fracking.
Close to 100 people gathered in front of the legislative assembly on Monday to hear from Liard First Nation members and demonstrate their opposition to hydraulic fracturing.
“We remind the premier that aboriginal rights are a collective right not held by our titular leadership,” said LFN member Alfred Chief, reading from a letter signed by a new group that has called itself Kaska Concerned About Land Protection and Good Government.
“If you are planning a back-room deal with our current leadership – we have not been consulted or accommodated by them either.”
George Morgan, who ran for chief but lost to Daniel Morris in 2013 and was briefly the First Nation’s executive director after that, is the chair of the new association.
The Yukon government announced last month that it will allow applications for fracking to take place in the Liard basin, in the territory’s southeast corner.
Currently there are no proposals from industry to do that, although EFLO Energy Inc. has indicated its intention to do so within the next five to 10 years.
The government has said that fracking will only proceed with the support of First Nations with traditional territory in the area.
It has committed to begin discussions with six First Nations from Yukon, B.C. and N.W.T. about the possibility of fracking in the Liard basin.
The government has also begun reconciliation talks with unsigned Yukon First Nations, including the Liard First Nation and the Ross River Dena Council. Very little information has been made public about the substance of these negotiations.
The NDP Official Opposition has suggested that the talks are more about securing approval for hydraulic fracturing than reconciling with First Nations.
“Is the reconciliation agreement the premier’s way to seek to get the green light to frack southeast Yukon?” asked NDP Leader Liz Hanson in the legislature on Monday.
“What I will say about the reconciliation is that we don’t negotiate in the media or on the floor of this legislative assembly,” said Premier Darrell Pasloski on Monday. “We will continue to work with the Kaska people.”
LFN Chief Daniel Morris, who has avoided a public profile since his election in late 2013, did not respond to a request for comment on this story.
“I really, really want to send a message to the chief and councillors of Liard First Nation to let them know we’ve got concerns, and to let them know that we want to be heard, we want to be met with,” said LFN member Rose Caesar at the rally on Monday.
She said she worries about the consequences of fracking on the water and the land.
“It’s pretty dangerous. It’s pretty scary. Especially when I grew up on the land, I live off the land, I travel all over the land, and you think I want to give up that right? You think I want to give that kind of future for my grandchildren? Certainly not.”
Meanwhile the Whitehorse liquefied natural gas power plant is set to begin burning fuel next month.
LNG, produced from a mix of fracked and conventional wells, will be shipped to the facility within the next few weeks.
The Kwanlin Dun First Nation signed an agreement with the Yukon government that will allow it to invest in the project up to 50 per cent ownership.
Chief Doris Bill was not available for an interview this week, but told CBC News last week that her First Nation still opposes hydraulic fracturing on Kwanlin Dun land.
Maude Barlow, chair of the Council of Canadians and prominent advocate for water issues, attended Monday’s rally.
“We need to understand what the world is facing in terms of a global water crisis,” she told the crowd.
“The United Nations just put out a report on World Water Day, about a month ago, saying that by 2030 the demand for water in our world will outstrip supply by 40 per cent. It’s really hard to get your mind around what that could possibly mean, until you’ve been to communities in the world that have run out of water, and literally are desperate. We have water refugees around the world.
“When we see a government prepared to frack water … it is just shocking to me,” she said.
“We here in Canada are blessed with more water than most, although we don’t have all the water our politicians think we do. We used to be told we had 20 per cent of the world’s water – well that’s only if we were to drain every river and lake. We have about 6.5 per cent of the available fresh water but we are not honouring it and we are not taking care of it.”
She urged the Yukon not to go down the fracking path. “I beg you, don’t start it,” she said.
“Fall on your knees in gratitude that we have the water in this country, but it gives us a special responsibility.”
Contact Jacqueline Ronson at