Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has filed a response to a petition by a citizen arguing that the First Nation’s residency requirement for council candidates violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.(James Munson/Yukon News file)

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation files response to citizen’s legal petition over residency requirements

The First Nation is arguing that Cindy Dickson has not exhausted all “adequate alternative remedies”

A Vuntut Gwitchin citizen who is seeking a judicial review over a residency requirement for citizens who want to run for council is acting prematurely, the First Nation says.

In a response filed to the Yukon Supreme Court Feb. 6, Vuntut Gwitch First Nation (VGFN) argues that Cindy Dickson had not exhausted the “adequate alternative remedies” that are available, and that “requiring pursuit of theses remedies is consistent with the need to preserve the integrity of Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation self-government.”

Dickson filed a petition to the Yukon Supreme Court in January, alleging that a requirement in VGFN’s constitution that all citizens running for council must reside on settlement land violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Dickson had submitted her nomination forms for a council position in the lead-up to VGFN’s 2018 election, but was rejected on the basis that she resides in Whitehorse.

Old Crow is the only portion of VGFN settlement land that’s consistently inhabited.

In her petition, Dickson argues that the residency requirement results in the unfair and unequal treatment of VGFN citizens who live off of settlement and violates a portion of the Charter guaranteeing equality rights. She’s asking for the requirement to be struck.

In its response, VGFN opposes the granting of any of the relief Dickson’s seeking. Along with claiming that Dickson has not exhausted the “adequate alternative remedies” available to her, the response also argues that the Charter does not apply to the VGFN constitution anyway.

The response also argues that, even if the court finds the Charter does apply to the VGFN constitution, the residency requirement is a reasonable limit, demonstrably justified in a free and democratic Vuntut Gwitchin society.”

Dickson’s petition is believed to be the first of its kind in the Yukon. While there have been several instances in other parts of Canada of First Nations citizens challenging the constitutionality of residency requirements, there have been no prior cases involving a self-governing Yukon First Nation.

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

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify that Dickson is seeking a judicial review, and that she submitted nomination forms leading up to the election

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