Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has filed its appeal to a Yukon Supreme Court decision earlier this year that found the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied to its government. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)

Vuntut Gwitchin formally appeals decision in residency requirement case

Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has filed its appeal to a Yukon Supreme Court decision earlier this year that found the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied to its government.

In a notice of cross-appeal filed to the Yukon Court of Appeal Aug. 7, the First Nation said that it was only appealing two portions of Justice Ron Veale’s decision — his finding that the Charter applies to Vuntut Gwitchin’s government, constitution and laws made by the government, and his conclusion that a 14-day time limit for elected members of chief and council to relocate to settlement lands violated the Charter.

The decision was the result of a petition filed by Vuntut Gwitchin citizen Cindy Dickson early last year. Dickson, who resides in Whitehorse, was challenging the constitutionality of the First Nation’s residency requirement for members of chief and council, arguing that it discriminated against citizens living outside of Old Crow and prevented them from fully participating in government.

Lawyers for Vuntut Gwitchin had argued that the Charter didn’t apply to the First Nation at all, noting that it had never agreed to its application during the negotiations of its final and self-government agreements.

Veale ultimately found that the Charter did apply but that the residency requirement, outside of requiring relocation within 14 days, did not violate anyone’s rights.

The precedent-setting decision has the potential to impact the interpretation of all Yukon First Nations’ final and self-government agreements. Vuntut Gwitchin Chief Dana Tizya-Tramm, in an affidavit filed with the First Nation’s request for an extension to file an appeal earlier this summer, said he had spoken to other chiefs with concerns about what the decision could mean for their own governments.

Dickson filed her own appeal earlier this summer. She’s again seeking a declaration that the residency requirement violates the section of the Charter protecting equality rights and is not saved by any other section, and legal costs.

Vuntut Gwitchin meanwhile is seeking an order from the appeal court quashing Veale’s ruling that the Charter applies to its government, constitution and laws. It’s also asking for Dickson’s appeal to be dismissed and for legal costs.

A date has not yet been set for the appeals to be heard.

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

Vuntut Gwitchin First NationYukon courts

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