WHITEHORSE, YT, June 8, 2016 /CNW/ - Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, introduced a bill in the House of Commons today that would amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA).
The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring public trust in environmental assessment processes. We will demonstrate to Canadians and to the world that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand in hand. Recognizing Indigenous rights and the interests of all Canadians is a key component of supporting a resilient natural resource sector.
In order to achieve this goal, the Government must work in partnership with Indigenous peoples, provincial and territorial governments, and Canadians to ensure that legislation underpinning these processes is clear, fair and appropriate, and reflects the needs of everyone involved.
In the case of legislative changes made to YESAA in 2015, a number of Yukon First Nations and other Yukoners expressed concern that certain elements did not meet these standards.
The proposed amendments introduced today would repeal these four contentious elements.
"Ensuring sustainable resource development that respects Indigenous rights is a key component of restoring public trust in environmental assessments. The Government of Canada is committed to moving forward in partnership with Yukon First Nations and the Yukon Government to support a resilient resource sector, increase legal certainty, and pave the way for greater investment and jobs for all Yukoners."
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, M.D., P.C., M.P.
Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs
"As both an MP and a Yukoner I am pleased to see the Government of Canada moving forward on this issue. While the Yukon is rich with natural resources, the voices of First Nations and other Yukoners must be heard when making decisions about how these resources will be used."
Member of Parliament, Yukon
"The Yukon government supports a robust, effective, efficient and transparent assessment regime. We are committed to working with the Government of Canada and First Nations on the YESAA legislation and its implementation. We want to move forward together in the spirit of reconciliation to benefit all Yukoners."
Premier of Yukon
"The CYFN is pleased to see that the Minister is willing to listen to Yukon First Nations and Yukoners and commit to work in partnership with us to address our concerns. These amendments proposed in this bill to the YESAA will serve to uphold the integrity of the land claim agreements in the Yukon and ensure that the environmental assessment process in the Yukon is consistent with the principles and processes established in the Yukon First Nation Final Agreements. We ask all Parliamentarians and Senators to pass this bill expeditiously."
Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations
"The Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation and other self-governing Yukon First Nations support this bill. The land management processes established in our land claim agreement, including the YESAA that was developed jointly by the CYFN, Canada and Yukon, must be respected and implemented in accordance with our land claim agreements. We committed to work together and we are pleased to see Canada now working with us."
Chief, Little Salmon/Carmacks First Nation
"This is a step towards building a respectful relationship between our governments. As self-governing First Nations, we are an essential part of decision making when it involves our territory. We will continue to strive for certainty and collaboration in the Yukon."
Nha Shade Heni, Teslin Tlingit Council
"We are gratified to see the Government of Canada is following through on its commitment to repeal the offending amendments to Yukon's development assessment Act. The tabling of this new bill is an important milestone reaffirming that governing the land and water, and the implementation of YESAA, remain a joint responsibility of all governments."
Chief, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations
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Date: June 8, 2016
Bill C-17 - Amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESSA)
In 2015, as part of a wider initiative to modernize and streamline the northern regulatory regime, changes were made to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA). At the time, a number of Yukon First Nations and Yukoners raised concerns about certain sections of the legislation.
The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring public trust in environmental assessments by ensuring sustainable resource development respects Indigenous rights and supports a resilient resource sector.
This is why, following formal discussions with Yukon First Nations and the Yukon Government, the Government of Canada has now introduced Bill C-17, a bill to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act (YESAA).
The bill introduced in the House of Commons on June 8, 2016, proposes to repeal four specific provisions in YESAA of greatest concern. These are:
- time limits on the review process
- exempting a project from reassessment when an authorization is renewed or amended unless there has been a significant change to the project
- ability for the federal minister to provide binding policy direction to the Board
- ability to delegate the federal minister's powers, duties or functions under the Act to the territorial government.
Bill C-17 is an example of what can be achieved when government works in partnership with Indigenous communities. Last fall, the Minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs, Carolyn Bennett, committed to exploring ways to address concerns raised by Yukon First Nations, in the spirit of renewing the government's relationship with First Nations. Earlier this year Canada, Yukon, the Council of Yukon First Nations and the self-governing Yukon First Nations signed an MOU that outlined mutually agreed upon steps towards addressing the First Nations' concerns with the legislation.
Several face to face meetings were held with Departmental officials, Yukon First Nations and the Yukon Government. Bill C-17 is the result of those cooperative, conciliatory discussions.
SOURCE Government of Canada
For further information: Sabrina Williams, Press Secretary, Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, 819-997-0002, Media Relations, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, 819-953-1160; Dan Macdonald, Cabinet Communications, Government of Yukon, 867-393-6470, Stephanie Brown, Communications Officer, Council of Yukon First Nations, 867-393-9223, [email protected]; Jade McGinty, Communications Officer, Teslin Tlingit Council, 867-390-2532 ext.306, [email protected]; Amy McKinnon, Communications Manager, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, 867-332-1973, [email protected]