First Nations threaten lawsuit over Yukon environment law

The Council of Yukon First Nations is threatening to go to court if the federal government continues with its unilateral changes to the Yukon environmental review process.

The council’s grand chief, Ruth Massie, says Ottawa essentially wants to gut environmental review law in the Yukon and turn back on 40 years of land claim progress.

"We were quite surprised when the first draft came back to us because we are not accepting what they are proposing,” Massie says. "It seems like they have just opened the floodgates and it will be a free-for-all.”

Bill S-6, the Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act, got first reading in the Senate on June 3. The bill would amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act.

In drafting the bill, the federal government consulted business and mining groups in Yukon, and met a legal responsibility to consult First Nations.

Massie says First Nations worked in good faith with the Yukon and federal governments to review the changes.

“The report that went to Ottawa was supposed to be signed off by three parties and the draft report that went to Canada was not the report that we all agreed to submit.”

Massie says Ottawa ignored Yukon First Nations input, held secret consultations with the mining industry, and deliberately concealed what they were doing from the Yukon public.

Massie says some members of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board aren’t happy with the changes either.

She says First Nations will fight and she's hoping all Yukoners will join in.