Photo by Whitehorse Star
Photo by Whitehorse Star
The Yukon NDP expanded upon its bold pledge to give First Nations an effective veto over energy and mining matters at a news conference held last Thursday morning.
The subject was first broached earlier in the week when the NDP unveiled its election platform.
The announcement was made by NDP candidate George Bahm.
“I’m happy to announce that a Yukon NDP government will require Yukon First Nations’ consent for all major resource development projects, renewable and non-renewable,” he said.
“We will put this into law because we commit to adopting the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
A Yukon NDP government will move swiftly to align all territorial legislation with the goals and recommendations of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“These are big commitments,” Bahm added.
“They’re overdue. It’s what Yukon First Nations have been waiting for a long time.
“I know that everyone standing here today and the Yukon NDP candidates across the territory all believe in keeping our land safe and protected for those that follow.”
NDP Leader Kate White said the response to the concept has been enthusiastic by the public when she’s been campaigning door-to-door.
“The most common sentiment is relief,” she said. “People want certainty. They don’t want more court cases.”
“There is no such thing as an equal partnership when one partner doesn’t recognize the other’s right to say no,” she added.
“We will make sure that Yukon First Nations’ rights are respected and adopt the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
“Many land use disputes are taken to court by Yukon First Nations who argue that government failed in its duty to consult them,” the NDP leader added.
“We believe the time has come to recognize that Yukon First Nations are partners, not mere stakeholders, in the approval of new mines.”
The party has also committed to working with First Nations without a final land claim agreement to complete planning and, where there is a desire from the First Nation, to support Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs) within their territories.
The subject was also the subject of some debate during a candidates’ forum held last Wednesday night.
Dan Curtis, the Liberal candidate for Whitehorse Centre, questioned NDP candidate Emily Tredger on the issue, provoking some controversy.
“So I’m just curious, the First Nations, United Nations, the consent – I’d just like to ask if the NDP has asked the First Nations if they’d like that. Because I know what we think is not always what they think or what they want or the attention drawn to them,” Curtis said in a rambling question.
“So I’m curious: has the NDP reached out to our First Nations asking if it’s something they wish to do? Or are they just doing this on their own?”
Tredger responded with a meandering answer of her own.
“I mean, I think the question was, and maybe I misunderstood, but I think the question is: do First Nations want the right to consent? And I, I just don’t imagine – I can’t quite understand how that could be anything but ‘yes’.
“Of course they want the right to self-determination,” Tredger said.
“And of course, they’re telling us they want the right to make their own decisions about their land. Of course, we’ve reached out to them and partnered with them and talked to them and I – yeah, of course, everyone wants consent, everyone wants the right to make decisions about their home.”
Curtis made another attempt at framing his question more concisely.
“I’m curious if you’ve asked the First Nations specifically if they want to be part of the United Nations consent, that’s all I’m asking.
“Have you asked them specifically, saying, ‘would you like us to have you on the United Nations consent?’ Because I think it’s taking a leap saying, ‘they want consent, of course they do.’
“But they’re their own government and they shouldn’t have someone telling them what they want to do,” Curtis said.
“So I’m very curious if you’ve gone ahead and asked anyone, if you’ve talked to Chief Bill or Chief Kane or Marvin or any of the chiefs.
“I’m just curious. Or is it just something that’s being assumed that they want this United Nations Declaration of consent. That’s all I’m asking. Specifically, this particular thing, please.”
Tredger answered, “yeah, our platform has come out of hundreds and thousands of conversations. And this is what we’re hearing; this is what we’re hearing that people want.
“So, yeah, that’s the answer, I guess, is that that’s what we’ve heard from all of our partners.”
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