Contentious Bill S-6 amendments to YESAA to be repealed

The federal government will repeal four contentious amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act that three First Nations filed a lawsuit over last October.

3 Yukon First Nations launched lawsuit last fall over amendments they say violated land claim agreements

Indigenous and Northern Affairs Minister Carolyn Bennett, Council of Yukon First Nations chief Ruth Massie and Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski attend a news conference following an intergovernmental meeting in Whitehorse Friday. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

The federal government will repeal four contentious amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act, Indigenous Affairs minister Carolyn Bennett announced today in Whitehorse.

She met Friday with Yukon chiefs and Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, and the three levels of government signed a memorandum of understanding, stating they will work together to address First Nations' concerns about Bill S-6.

It passed third reading just about a year ago, under the Conservative government of Stephen Harper. Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, the Teslin Tlingit Council, and the Champagne-Aishihik First Nation filed a lawsuit last October, saying the changes to YESAA violated their land claims agreements.

Bennett has committed to introducing legislation repealing the amendments to the House of Commons "no later" than June 23.

"From the beginning, we did not think it respected the final agreements," said Bennett.

Bennett said Yukon MP Larry Bagnell was "very instrumental" in making sure she was aware of the wishes of the Yukon chiefs.

Eric Fairclough, chief of the Little Salmon-Carmacks First Nation, thanked Bennett for "following through" and also thanked the federal Liberals for "being true to their word." In their election campaign, the Liberals had pledged to repeal the amendments.

Fairclough said the three First Nations that filed the lawsuit against the federal government over Bill S-6 will "set it aside" until the amending legislation is passed.

Champagne-Aishihik chief Steve Smith said "We'd like to pay special thanks to minister Bennett for her leadership on this file, both prior to and since your appointment to the portfolio."

Smith said the changes introduced by the Harper government "fundamentally undermine our final agreements." He added the First Nations had no choice to but to launch a legal action, saying "this happened in part because we were not respected as being legitimate governments and as partners of this great confederation."

It's expected the amending legislation will be passed in Parliament in the fall.