(Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Teslin Tlingit Council sues Canada over federal funding agreements

TTC says Canada has ‘failed or refused’ to negotiate financial transfer agreements properly

The Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC) has filed a lawsuit against the Attorney General of Canada alleging that the Canadian government has “refused or failed” to respect the Yukon First Nation’s final and self-government agreements when negotiating federal funding.

In a petition filed to the Yukon Supreme Court Dec. 18, the TTC says that to date, Canada’s approach to negotiating financial transfer agreements (FTA) with the TTC does not meet obligations outlined in the TTC’s final and self-government agreements and as such, are breaking the law.

“Canada has consistently failed or refused to follow a principled approach … and has instead offered only Financial Transfer Agreement funding based on national guidelines, in a take-it-or-leave-it manner that has not allowed for effective negotiations,” the petition reads.

The “core principles” the TTC says Canada has failed to factor into negotiations include funding that will allow the TTC to provide public services at levels “reasonably comparable” to those elsewhere in the Yukon; taking into account the TTC’s specific funding needs; funding based upon “demographic features” of the TTC that’s not limited only to citizens who have “Indian status” as defined by the Indian Act; funding that recognizes the TTC’s “governmental responsibilities, programs, services and jurisdiction;” adequate funding to “promote opportunities” for TTC citizens “equal to those of other Canadians” and to provide “essential public services of reasonable quality;” and funding that’s “progressive” and takes into account the TTC’s growth.

Instead, the petition says, the system Canada has has resulted in “limited or lower-quality essential services for TTC Citizens” and “undermines TTC’s constitutionally protected rights and obligations as agreed to in the Final Agreement and the Self-Government Agreement.”

The fundamental basis for the TTC to enter into final and self-governing agreements, which it signed with Canada in 1993 “was the meaningful support of Teslin Tlingit Council’s existence and operation as a self-governing Yukon First Nation,” the petition notes.

Canada has been aware since at least 2006 that the TTC’s FTA resources are “inadequate,” the petition says, when what was then Indian and Northern Affairs Canada commissioned a study that found self-governing Yukon First Nations were “significantly underfunded.” There were also “several other studies and reviews” in 2007 and 2008 that pointed out various flaws in the FTA funding model, the petition continues, but “Canada did not implement the recommendations provided as a result of these reviews.”

Instead, “Canada has prioritized broad national fiscal policy discussions that do not accord with the requirements of the TTC’s Agreements or with the Crown’s obligations,” the petition says, noting that Canada, again, refused to negotiate with the TTC for the 2018 FTA. The current FTA, the petition adds, is an extension of an FTA from 2015 that was itself an extension of an FTA originally signed in 2010. The 2010 FTA wasn’t properly negotiated either, the petition says, but the TTC felt “compelled to proceed” with it “due to funding needs.”

“Canada’s refusal to update their approach to annual adjustments of FTA funding is demonstrably inadequate and inequitable,” the petition says.

“The (TTC) seeks declarations confirming that negotiations of the Financial Transfer Agreement between Canada and TTC must proceed in recognition of these principles drawn from the Final Agreement and Self-Government Agreement, and that failure to do so is an error of law,” the petition reads.

“TTC now turns to this Court in order to confirm core principles upon which negotiations of an FTA must be based pursuant to the TTC Final Agreement, Self-Government Agreement and relationship between the Parties; which principles Canada to date has refused or failed to recognize.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com

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