Yukon NDP questions gov't on closed-door negotiations with Kaska Nations

NDP leader Liz Hanson says reconciliation with the Kaska people can't happen in a Vancouver boardroom and without 'engaging community members'

Premier admits negotiators meeting in Vancouver offices with Kaska negotiators

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski, Liard First Nation chief Daniel Morris, Ross River Dena Council chief Jack Caesar, and Kaska Dena Council chairperson George Miller sign a framework agreement for resource development, at the Mineral Exploration Roundup in Vancouver, Jan. 25, 2016. (Yukon government)

Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski has been taken to task by the Official Opposition in the legislature for negotiating a Kaska Nations reconciliation agreement behind closed doors

The Yukon government signed a framework agreement with the Ross River Dena Council, the Liard First Nation, and the northern B.C. based Kaska Dena Council in January. The talks are about resource and land development in southeast Yukon, an area potentially rich in natural gas and mineral deposits.

The Kaska Nations have not signed land claim and self-government agreements with the territorial and federal governments. Most other Yukon First Nations already have processes in place to accommodate development.

In the legislature Monday, New Democratic leader Liz Hanson asked Pasloski why the agreements are being negotiated at a boardroom in Vancouver, far from Kaska communities and Kaska First Nations members.
Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson questions how holding negotiations important to the Kaska people in a Vancouver board room will garner community support. (CBC)
"Does the premier really believe that reconciliation can be achieved through negotiations in a distant boardroom rather than working with all segments of Yukon's communities," Hanson asked.

Pasloski replied he's "proud to continue to move forward with First Nations on this very important issue."  He said it was the Kaska leaders who wanted to meet in Vancouver, and his negotiators simply complied with that request.

"We have our negotiators who work with their negotiators, this is how public government recognizes the duly elected governments of First Nations. We continue to work with them," the premier said.

The Yukon government is spending just over $2 million this year on the Kaska Framework Agreement. The agreement is meant to lead to land and resource management deals with the Kaska, according to the territorial government.

It also includes agreements with the Kaska Nations to address the Yukon government's obligation to consult on mineral exploration.