The national NDP critic for Aboriginal Affairs says the federal government is headed on a collision course with Yukon First Nations.
Jean Crowder, MP for Nanaimo-Cowichan, has been questioning Aboriginal Affairs Minister Bernard Valcourt in the House of Commons over Bill S-6, the legislation would amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act.
Crowder sits on the standing committee on aboriginal affairs.
She says she's shocked that Valcourt told Yukon First Nations — and the House committee — that First Nations aren't governments under the Umbrella Final Agreement.
She says it's worrisome that Valcourt could be so misinformed about First Nations' self government.
"I think that was a shock to everybody, that a minister on one hand says that we've got to move forward on self-government and reconciliation, and on the other hand, completely dismisses First Nations as an order of government," she says. "And it's disappointing to hear the MP Ryan Leef, for the Yukon, support Valcourt's position."
Crowder says parliamentary secretary Mark Strahl repeated the position in debate on Thursday.
"It's clearly the government line," she says. "You've got Valcourt initiating it; Strahl repeating it; Ryan Leef repeating it. The Conservatives actually don't understand and don't respect the fact that First Nations are governments."
Crowder says the government ignores First Nations at its peril, pointing to the federal government's dismal record on winning court cases with First Nations across the country.
She says the stiff First Nations' opposition to Bill S-6 will be bad for business.
"I would say that S-6 is going to undermine that certainty for investment and business, because the First Nations have clearly said that if the government doesn't come to the table in good faith, if it doesn't recognize their obligations, that they're going to end up in court, and that's going to undermine economic development in Yukon," she says.
"And I know that Yukoners, including First Nations, absolutely want to move ahead with economic development, but they want it done in a way that respects the agreements."
Crowder says she wants Valcourt to retract his comments and apologize to Yukon First Nations.
Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski has issued a statement, asking Valcourt to "correct the record."