Industry applauds Kaska Nation plan to pass resource law
North American Tungsten says move by 5 Kaska First Nations is 'exciting, positive'
The Kaska Nation's announcement that it is planning to pass a resource law to create more certainty for industry is being welcomed by one large mining company with projects on Kaska traditional territory.
The five Kaska First Nations have territory in the Yukon, northern British Columbia, and parts of western N.W.T.
They say they'll pass the law later this year, with regulations to follow.
"We're going to create a set of guidelines and policy around when a company comes in, what they have to do to consult the First Nation, what they have to do to accommodate right and title interest on the land to make sure that all of our interests are met," said Brian Ladue, chief of the Ross River Dena Council.
Ladue says the law will simplify the process for mining companies, and ensure good relationships with industry. He says leaders are entrusted to protect and preserve the land for future generations.
North American Tungsten owns the MacTung project north of Ross River, and the CanTung mine north of Watson Lake.
Allan Krasnick, who is on the company's board of directors, says a Kaska resource law is "not threatening in any way" and says such a law would be "an appropriate way to be regulating the use of land."
"Title is real, it should be real," he said.
"Whoever owns the land, it's not us. We're renting it, using it, at the consent of the underlying owners."
He adds he likes the idea of developing something new that will have depth and "resonance with the community and the industry."
Ladue has said the Kaska don't need permission to pass the law and are not seeking the territory’s approval.
"They pass laws, they're a government, they govern how they govern," Ladue said. "And we're a government — we govern how we govern as well."
Ladue says First Nations' inherent right to govern will also guide the law.
"We have unceded rights and titles to our lands. We haven't signed a treaty, we haven't relinquished right and title," he said.
Yukon premier says Kaska can't pass laws
Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski says he doesn't believe the Kaska have the legal right to pass their own laws, because the Kaska still fall under the Indian Act.
"Those First Nations who have gone through a modern day treaty, who have a final land claim agreement and self-government agreements have the ability to make laws, but those who have not, do not have that ability to make laws."
Pasloski says there are asserted rights and titles that haven't been surrendered but he says only First Nations with constitutionally-enshrined self-government agreements can pass laws.
The Ross River Dena Council has successfully challenged the Yukon government in court over the government's right to issue mining claims on its traditional territory.
Negotiations are currently underway between the First Nation and the Yukon government over what consultation will look like, and where claims can be staked.