Yukon First Nations pull trigger on Bill S 6 lawsuit

Three Yukon First Nations have made good of their threat to sue the federal government over Bill S-6, which includes four controversial amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

Three Yukon First Nations have made good of their threat to sue the federal government over Bill S-6, which includes four controversial amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

The Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation and Teslin Tlingit Council filed a petition in Yukon Supreme Court on Wednesday.

“Our petition states that the amendments through Bill S-6 undermine or weaken Yukon’s development assessment process and our role as Yukon First Nation governments,” Chief Carl Sidney of Teslin Tlingit Council said at a news conference Wednesday morning.

“Therefore, they are a clear breach of our final agreements.”

The petition was accompanied by affidavits from the leaders of 11 Yukon First Nations.

Bill S-6 was introduced in June 2014, and aimed to streamline regulatory processes in the territories.

But Yukon First Nations claim they were not consulted about some of the proposed amendments to Yukon’s environmental assessment laws, and that the bill undermines the Umbrella Final Agreement.

“These bilateral discussions between Canada and Yukon took place without notice to or involvement of First Nations,” according to the 19-page lawsuit.

The offending amendments would impose timelines on assessments and allow permit renewals and amendments without new assessments. They would also allow a federal minister to give binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, and to delegate authority to a territorial minister.

Seventy amendments were agreed to by the First Nations, the Yukon government and the federal government.

But the First Nations are asking for the court to strike them all down, not just the four contentious ones.

First Nations have threatened a lawsuit since well before the bill was passed in June.

The petition also names the Yukon government as a party to the case because it is a signatory to the Umbrella Final Agreement, as well as individual First Nation final agreements.

“We hold both governments responsible for upholding the honour of the Crown and the treaty obligations identified in our constitutionally protected agreements,” said Chief Eric Fairclough of Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation.

The First Nations will be represented by Gregory McDade, a B.C.-based lawyer specializing in aboriginal consultation and major resource projects.

A case management conference has been scheduled for Dec. 15.

Contact Myles Dolphin at

myles@yukon-news.com

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