Yukon gov't, First Nations agree to 'one government' approach to mining

Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in chief Roberta Joseph likened the relationship between the government and First Nations to a marriage that's been through a rocky patch. 'You have to work through the bad days in order to keep the good marriage going.'

Memorandum of understanding called a 'momentous occasion' that re-sets relationship

Yukon Mines Minister Ranj Pillai and Council of Yukon First Nations Grand Chief Peter Johnston signed the memorandum of understanding on Tuesday in Vancouver. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

The Yukon government and 11 of the territory's First Nations are vowing to work together on a "one government approach" to Yukon's mining sector.

The territorial government and self-governing First Nations signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Tuesday, at the AME Round Up in Vancouver.  The MOU establishes a "government-to-government" relationship and commits the territory to working with First Nations on matters related to prospecting, exploration, mine production and closure and reclamation.

"We had made a commitment to the mining industry and First Nations that we could bring a different approach to the [mining] industry and the sector in the Yukon," said Mines Minister Ranj Pillai.

"We have a lot of trust that's just been put in us to re-set this. So we've got to get this right."

'Yukon First Nations and the Yukon government are once again reconciling,' said Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in chief Roberta Joseph. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in chief, Roberta Joseph, likened the ongoing relationship between Yukon and its First Nations to a marriage that's been through a rocky patch.

"It seemed with the last government, we were almost hitting the point of divorce at times. And after a long silent treatment, Yukon First Nations and the Yukon government are once again reconciling," she said.

"You have to work through the bad days in order to keep the good marriage going."

'A momentous occasion'

Premier Sandy Silver also spoke at the Vancouver event, saying the new agreement provides the basis for a "one government approach".

He said he's been talking to industry representatives and "everybody's been loving this concept."

Silver says it's better for mining companies to be able to get everyone together in the same room, "so the industry isn't talking to the territorial government, and then talking to the First Nations government.

"Everybody's in the same room — that's going to help the industry, it's going to help the environment, it's going to help the Yukon survive."

'We need development, we need wealth for our children, for our grandchildren,' said Jon Rudolph of Cobalt Construction. (Nancy Thomson/CBC)

Jon Rudolph, from Whitehorse's Cobalt Construction, calls the new agreement "a momentous occasion" that bodes well for the territory.

"The bottom line is, for the health and well-being of Yukoners — whether they be First Nation or non-First Nation — we need development, we need wealth for our children, for our grandchildren."

Tara Christie, CEO of Whitehorse-based Banyan Gold, agrees that the new relationship in Yukon sends a "really important signal" to the mining industry.

"If there's a strong relationship there, it makes it so much easier for industry to develop relationships and continue the conversation."

With files from Nancy Thomson