All MLAs from the Liberal Party and the Yukon Party have voted against a bill proposed by the Yukon NDP to reinstate a First Nation consent clause into law.
According to a Nov. 9 release issued by the NDP following the vote in the House, Bill 306 would have restored the right of Yukon First Nations without a signed final agreement to consent to oil and gas activity in their territory.
“This could have been a historic day for the Yukon — but the Liberals and the Yukon Party voted otherwise,” NDP Leader Kate White said in the release.
“This bill was the opportunity to right the wrongs of the past, and the Liberal government chose not to.”
The wording of the proposed changes to section 13 of the Oil and Gas Act reads:
“Before the effective date of a Yukon First Nation’s Final Agreement, the Minister shall not issue new dispositions having locations in the traditional territory of the Yukon First Nation; or issue licences authorizing any oil and gas activity in the traditional territory of the Yukon First Nation, without the consent of the Yukon First Nation.”
Eleven of the 14 First Nations in the territory have final agreements. Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation and White River First Nation do not have final agreements.
Eight groups including the Council of Yukon First Nations, Ross River Dena Council, Liard First Nation, Ta’an Kwäch’än Council, Carcross/Tagish First Nation, Teslin Tlingit Council, Kwanlin Dün First Nation and Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation wrote letters in support of the bill that were tabled in the legislature.
The letter from Ross River Dena Council Chief Dylan Loblaw called reinstating the clause the “right decision” and a “positive step in demonstrating good faith and Yukon government’s genuine commitment to reconciliation.”
It argues that reinstating this clause is “important to redress the contentious decision by the Yukon government in 2012 to rescind section 13, despite the objections of Kaska chiefs.”
In a Nov. 9 statement, Premier Sandy Silver said the Liberal caucus is not able to support the bill at this time.
“We agree with the intention of this bill. We do not think that the requirement for consent from First Nations without final agreements should have been removed from the Yukon’s Oil and Gas Act, and do not agree with the unilateral approach taken by the Yukon Party in 2012 to remove it,” he said.
“We share the desire to correct this historical error and before we can agree to make any changes to Oil and Gas Act, we need to hear from Yukon First Nations to understand their positions on proposed changes.”
Silver said the Liberals need to hear from all Yukon First Nations or from transboundary First Nations that may have interest or be impacted before going ahead with any changes.
He said he has reached out to all Yukon First Nations about his party’s position.
Silver indicated the matter would be discussed at the Yukon Forum later this month.
Contact Dana Hatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org