Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 12, 2014

Another lawsuit camps out on YTG’s doorstep

The Yukon Party government has been hit with another lawsuit by a First Nation government.

By Chuck Tobin on February 12, 2014 at 4:46 pm

The Yukon Party government has been hit with another lawsuit by a First Nation government.

The government is being accused of failing to properly consult the Taku River Tlingit First Nation regarding its decision to build a territorial campground inside the Tlingits’ traditional territory along the Atlin Road.

The Atlin First Nation is also arguing the government is in breach of its legal duty to consult the Taku River Tlingits before recording mineral claims inside its traditional territory and allowing work to proceed on those claims before consultation occurs.

Territorial cabinet spokesman Dan Macdonald said this morning Premier Darrell Pasloski will not comment on the legal action filed Tuesday.

“We just got the statement of claim in the court case, so the government will take its time to review the details of the file before making an official response,” Macdonald said.

In its statement of claim, the Taku River Tlingits point out they have an unsettled aboriginal land claim in northwestern B.C. and southern Yukon.

The land claim was accepted by Ottawa for negotiations in 1983 but remains unsettled, the document points out.

The lawsuit notes the government’s proposed campground is in the middle of the First Nation’s traditional territory and is potentially the site of an important land selection for the Tlingits.

Permitting the campground to proceed, says the statement of claim, may prejudice the Tlingits’ aboriginal rights and title.

Furthermore, the government is in breach of its legal obligation to properly consult with the Taku River Tlingits before moving forward with the campground project in the first place, says the lawsuit.

The suit also claims the government is in breach of its legal obligation to consult the First Nation before recording mineral claims, and permitting work to occur on those claims.

The Taku River Tlingits are asking the Yukon Supreme Court to rule the government has a duty to consult before moving ahead with the campground.

It’s also seeking a ruling that the government has a duty to consult the First Nation before recording any claims and allowing work on those claims.

As one of three Yukon First Nations without an aboriginal claim settlement, the Ross River Dena Council sued the territorial government in 2011 over mineral claims.

Ross River argued the government had a duty to consult the First Nation before permitting mineral claims to be staked, because allowing claim staking could affect the Ross River’s unsurrendered aboriginal rights and title.

Following something of a split decision by the Yukon Supreme Court, the three justices of the Yukon Court of Appeal sided with Ross River.

They ruled just over a year ago that the Yukon government had a duty to consult before recording mineral claims.

The court went on to find there was also duty to consult before allowing any exploration activity on those claims, even at the lowest level.

The decision forced the Yukon government to amend its mining legislation late last year.

Whitehorse lawyer Stephen Walsh represented the Ross River Dena Council. Walsh filed Tuesday’s lawsuit on behalf of the Taku River Tlingits.

A case management conference has been scheduled for March 11.

Taku River spokesman John Ward was out of the office this morning and unavailable to discuss whether the Atlin First Nation will seek a court order preventing construction of the campground until the matter is settled in court.

It also remains unclear whether the Taku River Tlingits will ask the Yukon government to apply the same protection on their traditional lands against new mineral claims it has afforded the Ross River Dena Council.

The government plans to begin building its campground this summer.

Last August it submitted its project proposal for review by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, which recommended approval in late November.

The Yukon government issued its decision on Jan. 22 accepting the assessment board’s recommendation to proceed with construction of the campground.

In the Taku River Tlingit’s Sept. 17 submission to the assessment board regarding the campground proposal, the first four sentences of the three page letter read:

“The Taku River Tlingit First Nation (TRTFN) remain opposed to this project based on anticipated infringements upon our aboriginal rights and title with significant economic, social, and environmental impacts that cannot be adequately mitigated.

“The Yukon government chose not to consult with the TRTFN prior to announcing this campground in a budget speech on March 14, 2013. It is not acceptable for our Nation to learn of a governmental decision that would permanently impact and alienate a portion of our Traditional Territory without previous
consultation. The Yukon government is aware that the TRTFN have unextinguished aboriginal rights and title in this portion of the Yukon Territory.”

The Yukon government was threatened with another legal action early last month by the White River First Nation, one of the other three Yukon First Nations without a land claim settlement.

The First Nation indicated in a press release if the government didn’t implement a moratorium on mineral staking for White River’s traditional territory, as it has for Ross River, White River would take legal action.

Last week, the Gwich’in Tribal Council of Inuvik filed a lawsuit against the Yukon government.

It claimed its adoption of the Peel land use plan amounted to a breach of the Gwich’in transboundary land claim settlement inside the Peel River watershed.

In late January, the government’s adoption of the Peel plan resulted in a lawsuit filed jointly by the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in of Dawson City, the Yukon Conservation Society and the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

The lawsuit claims the government’s adoption of the Peel land use plan was unilateral and unlawful because it breached the co-operatve process outlined in the Yukon’s aboriginal land claim settlements.

CommentsAdd a comment

BnR

Feb 13, 2014 at 7:48 am

When YG held meetings on this proposed campground, there were, what, 3 members of the TRTFN present?
There are cleared fields along the Atlin road that have been cleared by land owners that are much larger than this campground would be, yet these never faced any sort of opposition from the TRTFN.
The small sliver of land that the campground would be built on currently has nothing on it.  Nothing.  Nada.  And please don’t tell me anyone traps there, because no one traps right by the highway, which is right where this land lies.
So ultimately, this is purely a frivolous lawsuit, who’s only point seems to be to make a point of some sort, although I can’t for the life of me figure out what that could be.

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