Miners' demands to move a First Nation neighbourhood off its own land evidence of outdated legislation

The Yukon NDP says that a recent application to the Yukon Surface Rights Board to have an entire Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in neighbourhood moved off of their own settlement land underscores the need for modern successor resource legislation. For years, the Yukon NDP has called for the development of new mining legislation and highlighted the need to work with both First Nation governments and industry to develop modern resource legislation that would bring the territory's mining laws into the 21st century.

“We believe that Yukon’s outdated mining laws need to change so that everyone involved is treated fairly,” said Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson. “It’s easy to see why this has happened: the Yukon Party government has done nothing but make empty promises for 14 years about working with First Nation governments and responsible mining sector interests who all seek certainty.”

According to a release from the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation government, the miners want the removal of “all buildings, power lines, sewer and water lines, survey stakes and any other possessions” from a neighbourhood that has existed on its settlement land at the Southern entrance of Dawson City since 2001. Despite the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government's proven support for responsible mining, the Yukon Party government’s continued refusal to act in good faith has led to yet another avoidable dispute.

“The Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in neighbourhood is not going anywhere,” said Hanson. “This dispute highlights that the status quo is not an option. There is a better way to avoid such conflicts and it starts with implementing our First Nation Final Agreements through successor resource legislation.”

As recently as January 26th, the Yukon Party government was still promising to work with First Nation governments to create fairer mining rules and consult with the mining industry ahead of the 2016 season. However, nothing has come of the government’s words – and this latest conflict is a direct consequence of the Yukon Party government’s inaction.

This most recent land use conflict is not unique. This summer, the Dawson region has seen several mining land use conflicts that could have been avoided by modern legislation and better planning. In June, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation government launched a lawsuit against the Yukon government over its failure to consult the First Nation on mineral exploration in its traditional territory. This August, a Dawson placer miner re-applied to expand his contentious operations further into a local subdivision. More recently, the Yukon government announced plans to take the Yukon Water Board to court after the board’s decision to prevent a placer miner from mining in a wetland.

Hanson also believes that these disputes are evidence that avoiding the hard work of working together as governments is harmful to both the process of reconciliation and, ultimately, to Yukon's economy.

The Yukon NDP will renew the dialogue to fulfill the mutual commitment for Yukon and First Nation governments, in consultation with industry and other stakeholders, to develop made-in-Yukon resource laws. Such successor legislation would give life to the new relationship set out in Yukon Final Agreements and bring certainty for investment and development.

“As Yukon’s Elders said many years ago, all of Yukon prospers when First Nations communities thrive,” added Hanson. “We stand with First Nation governments who are working to build strong communities inside a unified Yukon.”