Negotiations with First Nations an uphill battle until Yukon replaces antiquated free-entry staking law

In response to the Yukon Liberal government’s ongoing mining rights negotiations with Yukon First Nation governments, Yukon NDP Leader Liz Hanson has made the following statement:

This morning Yukon’s deputy premier spoke to the media about his decision to maintain a mineral staking ban on Kaska Dena territory for 90 days. The ban represents the temporary extension of a 2015 court-brokered agreement between the Kaska Dena Council and the Government of Yukon regarding Yukon’s duty to notify, consult and accommodate the Kaska First Nations regarding mining exploration. The deputy premier said that this decision was made in order to continue negotiations regarding prior First Nations consent for claim staking on their traditional territory.

The Yukon NDP Caucus has advocated for many years that it is time for the Government of Yukon to take a leadership role in meeting its Devolution Transfer Agreement obligations. The Yukon government is obliged to work with all Yukon First Nation governments as well as with municipalities, affected industries and Yukon citizens to develop new mining laws to replace the federal resource management laws Yukon inherited when the territory assumed responsibility for natural resources management.

Yukon First Nations, including the Kaska, have demonstrated that they support mining in their traditional territory. However, the antiquated notion that mining-related activities, including staking, take precedence over all other land uses is not only outdated, it flies in the face of Supreme Court of Canada rulings. It is inconsistent with the negotiated land claims agreements and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action recommendations that the Yukon Liberal government said it accepted. It is time to act on those commitments.

Instead of creating more working groups to tackle piece-meal aspects of our mining regulations, the Yukon government must take a leadership role. Premier Sandy Silver needs to invite all Yukon First Nation governments, mining industry representatives and Yukon citizens to work together to replace Yukon’s Gold Rush-era mining legislation with modern laws that reflect 21st Century realities and expectations.