Photo by Whitehorse Star
Justice Ron Veale
Photo by Whitehorse Star
Justice Ron Veale
The Ross River Dena Council has lost a second challenge of the Yukon government’s practice of issuing hunting licences to hunt in the Ross River area.
Justice Ron Veale of the Yukon Supreme Court ruled last week the government has fulfilled it obligations to consult with Ross River in the area of wildlife management.
The guiding law on the matter does not say the Ross River Dena Council must agree with wildlife management decisions by Environment Yukon, Veale writes.
He said it does say the government must have “deep consultation” with the First Nation and “always be alive to when appropriate accommodation is required.”
In the first challenge of the government’s practice of issuing licences in 2015, Veale ruled the government had fulfilled its duty to consult.
He ruled again last week the government is meeting the test of deep consultation.
The Kaska of Ross River maintain the issuance of hunting licences for caribou and moose in particular is hurting the wildlife populations and is impacting on the First Nation’s rights and title over their traditional territory.
Aboriginal title to the Kaskas’ traditional territory includes the right to have exclusive use and occupation of the Ross River area, as well as control over management of the area, the First Nation contends.
It argues the Yukon government refuses to accept Ross River’s authority in the management of wildlife in its traditional territory.
Veale notes in his decision released last week that Ross River wants the entire area put under a permit hunt, and not just for the Finlayson caribou herd.
“This was demanded by RRDC’s Chief in a letter to the Premier dated March 3, 2016,” says the decision.
“Yukon sees this as a proposal to limit hunting access to the Ross River Area rather than a useful wildlife management tool for such an extensive area.
“Yukon firmly believes that there is no specific harm or potential harm to wildlife in the Ross River Area that is not being managed successfully under the existing wildlife management regimes, with the exception of the Finlayson Caribou Herd, which was already under a permit hunt.”
Veale declined to grant several declarations Ross River was seeking.
Those included a declaration that the Yukon government has failed to consult and accommodate the First Nation prior to issuing licences and seals.
In the 2015 case of a similar nature, Veale ruled that the communication between Ross River and Environment Yukon regarding wildlife management was extensive, and did indeed fulfill the duty to consult.
He also ruled in 2015 that the issuance of licences does have the potential to affect Ross River’s rights and title to its traditional territory. But he also found the level of consultation was sufficient to address any negative impacts.
“As to the RRDC’s claim for a declaration that Yukon’s duty to consult must be prior to the issuance of hunting licences and seals, that matter was dismissed in 2015, and I decline to make such a declaration again,” reads last week’s decision.
“It is not practical nor appropriate to make every holder of a licence and seal in Yukon subject to a duty to consult RRDC prior to issuance.
“I also dismiss the RRDC claim for a declaration that Yukon has failed to consult and where appropriate accommodate.
“Both Yukon and RRDC have been engaged in consultation and will hopefully continue to do so as they both share a mutual interest in preserving wildlife populations.”
In 2012, the Ross River Dena Council challenged the Yukon government’s practice of issuing mineral claims inside its traditional territory, arguing it was not consulting the First Nation.
The First Nation won.
There’s been no resolution between Ross River and the government regarding how to fulfill the duty to consult prior to recording claims.
There have been no new mining claims recorded in the area since 2012.
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