Ross River Dena lose case seeking consultation on hunting licences

The Yukon Fish and Game Association's executive director says he's relieved by a recent court ruling endorsing the territory's fish and wildlife management practices.

Executive director of Yukon Fish and Game Association calls ruling 'victory for wildlife'

Gord Zealand, the executive director of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, says that Justice Ron Veale's ruling is a 'victory for wildlife'. (Vic Istchenko/CBC)

The Ross River Dena Council has lost its court challenge of Yukon government hunting rules.

Lawyers for the First Nation wanted a court order forcing government consultation before hunting licences are issued in the Ross River area.

In a judgment issued last week, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale said the government is already doing that.

"There is no doubt that Environment Yukon has made continuing and extensive efforts to consult RRDC about wildlife management in the Ross River Area," Veale wrote in his Nov. 26 decision, "although the evidence does not establish that this consultation occurs on a regular and predictive basis."

It's not the first time the Dena Council has gone to court to enforce a "duty to consult" on the Yukon government.

'I was scared'

Gord Zealand, the executive director of the Yukon Fish and Game Association, says Justice Veale's ruling is a "victory for wildlife.

"I was scared," said Zealand. "I mean, you've got a process and you think that's how you are going to make it work, but if someone has an independent process, if you have independent populations that are moving from one area to another, how are you going to deal with that?

"So yeah, big relief. Big relief."

The Council won a recent challenge of mineral staking rules, forcing the government to change the way claims are registered.  This hunting challenge sought a similar say in how hunting licenses are issued, but the government provided evidence that the Dena have been working with government wildlife managers as far back as 1975.

Only in recent years has Ross River refused to participate in some management workshops.

Veale refused to make an order requiring consultation, but suggested the two sides would get along much better if those consultations happened regularly, before each hunting season, saying that it would be an effective and reliable way of ensuring that Dena claims to title and hunting rights in the Ross River area are recognized.

Zealand agreed, saying that "the courts is no goddamn place to resolve these issues."