Yukon government kills law that would give First Nations veto over resource projects

Despite support from several First Nations, the Liberal government and Yukon Party have unanimously voted to reject a private member’s bill that would have given First Nations in the territory without Final Agreements the right to veto oil and gas proposals on their territories.

“In the absence of thorough consultation with Yukon First Nations and transboundary First Nations, we are unable, as a government, to support these amendments to the Oil and Gas Act at this time,” said Premier Sandy Silver in a statement to APTN News.

The vote took place on Nov. 9.

Final agreements are constitutionally protected modern treaties that outline First Nations’ rights within their traditional territories.

The NDP in Yukon was pushing to reinstate a law that would have given the territory’s three First Nations that don’t have self-government agreements the ability to say yes or no to these projects.

Ten years ago, the territorial government removed a clause from the Yukon Oil and Gas Act that required the government to get consent from Yukon First Nations without a self-government agreement before issuing oil and gas licences.

“Ten years ago we weren’t having the conversation in the same way about First Nations consent,” said Kate White, leader of the NDP in Yukon. “And when this clause got removed it was a really big deal, it’s still a really big deal.”

Eleven of 14 First Nations in Yukon have self-government agreements and can say yes or no to natural resource projects.

White said the Yukon Party, which was in power at the time, revoked the clause in 2012 because two of the three First Nations without agreements wouldn’t consent to oil and gas development on their territories.

In October, her party introduced the bill that will bring the clause back.

The chief of Ross River Dena First Nation, a community without a self-government agreement, said both the Liberal and Yukon Parties have walked away from prior agreements that ensured his community’s right to consent.

“The broken commitments continue to carry on to this modern day,” said Dylan Loblaw.

Loblaw said he’s disappointed with the vote.

“There’s a lack of communication. There is no meaningful consultation for that government to get that information,” he said.

White said there’s likely no future for the bill in its current form as it’s now off the order paper.

“I don’t understand why (the Liberal government has) a hesitancy around having the conversations on Yukon First Nations free, prior and informed consent. I think every First Nation in the territory deserves the ability to consent to projects, and I think that’s the future.”

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