Retrial of historic Ross River case begins today in Whitehorse

Yukon’s Ross River Dena Council goes to court today in its second attempt to argue that the First Nation is entitled to compensation under the 1870 order that brought Yukon into the Dominion of Canada.

A major Yukon land claim trial gets under way today in Whitehorse.

The Ross River Dena Council wants Ottawa to honour commitments made under the 1870 Rupert’s Land Order that brought Yukon into the Dominion of Canada.

That order promised that "claims of the Indian tribes to compensation" will be considered and settled.

The case has already been tried once in Yukon Supreme Court, with Justice Leigh Gower ruling the 1870 Rupert's Land Order is not enforceable.

Justice Gower eventually sided with the government, accepting historical evidence that Ottawa had no intention of compensating aboriginal peoples in 1870.

Gower concluded the order was not enforceable then, and said he couldn’t see how it could have subsequently acquired legal force.

The Yukon Court of Appeal has since determined Gower's ruling was based on the wrong questions.

It says government intentions in 1870 are of little importance.

The question should be simply whether the 1870 Order is enforceable by the Yukon Supreme Court today.

Three weeks have been scheduled for arguments.