White River First Nation wants staking ban on its land
Lobbying for same treatment as Ross River Dena Council
Yukon's White River First Nation is calling for an immediate ban on mineral staking within its traditional territory.
The First Nation wants the same treatment that is being extended to the Ross River Dena Council.
A temporary ban on staking went into effect in the Ross River area since the end of December 2013, while consultations continue between the government and the First Nations.
That was in response to a 2012 court ruling, later upheld despite a Yukon government appeal, which ruled in favour of a challenge by the Ross River Dena Council, who sought to be consulted before staking takes place.
In December 2013, the Yukon government also made changes to the Yukon Quartz and Placer Mining Acts to comply with the decision, but for now, those changes only apply to Ross River.
White River lawyer Krista Robertson says both changes set a precedent because White River, like the Ross River Dena Council, is also a First Nation without a final land claim.
Robertson says the First Nation expects to be consulted before staking takes place.
"Consultation has to be deep and thorough and properly done, in order to meet the legal standards that have been established by the Supreme Court of Canada in terms of the duty of the Crown to consult with First Nations,” Robertson says.
“If there's any staking on White River territory, and any activity that flows from that, that impacts their aboriginal rights, there's a high potential for a legal challenge to that activity."
The Yukon government says the mineral staking ban applied to Ross River is temporary, while court-decreed consultations continue there, and consultations with White River are next.
"We'll get to them,” says Dermot Flynn, the Yukon government’s director of implementation and reconciliation. “Our commitment to them is that when we've completed our consultation with Ross River, we will then turn to our consultation with White River."
Flynn says it's not clear, though, exactly how the court ruling applies to other unsigned First Nations, such as White River.
"There are risks in taking one court case, and applying it to another situation,” Flynn says.
“It does require a fairly extensive or intensive analysis of the fact situation — and this is the case with White River.Their circumstances are different than Ross River, and the most notable one, and the most obvious one, is that they share a 100 per cent overlap with Kluane First Nation."
A spokesperson for the Yukon Department of Energy, Mines and Resources says the amended mining regulations could eventually be expanded to include White River, but only after that First Nation has concluded its consultations with the Yukon government.
with files from Nancy Thomson