Question re: Kaska First Nation reconciliation agreement - November 30, 2015

Mr. Silver: When the Premier set out new mandate letters this summer, he gave himself a to-do list. On that list: negotiate reconciliation agreements with non-settled Yukon First Nations and the Kaska Dena Council. This is a welcome change for the Yukon Party, who spent years ignoring unsettled First Nations, as opposed to finding partnerships outside of the UFA framework.

In the spring, the Premier said — and I quote: “Yukon government has recently begun preliminary negotiations for a reconciliation agreement with the Kaska …” — “The goal of these early discussions is to move into detailed negotiations in the coming months.”

What is the current status of negotiations with the Kaska Dena Council? Is the government now in detailed negotiations and when does the Premier see an agreement being reached?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Of course we’re not going to talk about negotiations on the floor of this House. What I can report to the House is that we continue to speak with and negotiate with the Kaska Dena Council. It is still in the preliminary stages, but there are conversations that occur between the negotiators and there are conversations that occur at the leadership level as well.

We will continue to work together to address all of those needs that exist for the Kaska Dena Council and Yukon government and chart a path forward to the benefit of the Kaska and all Yukoners. As more information is ready to be announced, we’ll make sure that the House and all Yukoners hear it.

Mr. Silver: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to move from the southeast to the northwest and ask about negotiations with the White River First Nation.

This summer, an official from the Premier’s office said that reconciliation talks with the White River First Nation are more advanced and could be concluded in a matter of months. It has been a matter of months, and then some, since those comments were made. When does the Premier anticipate these negotiations wrapping up?

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We are in fact into detailed negotiations with White River First Nation on a reconciliation agreement. That work is ongoing and continuing. We will continue to work with their negotiators, and we will continue to have conversations at a political level when necessary. I would also like to reiterate that I in fact met with Yukon First Nation leadership just last Thursday as we got together to discuss important issues. I look forward to meeting with the leadership again in the very near future as we continue to work together, much to the disappointment of the members opposite.

Mr. Silver: Since the first announcement on these reconciliation talks, the government has been very reluctant to inform the public of what’s on the table in these negotiations. It has left the public completely in the dark regarding what is being discussed.

These are clearly more than just reconciliation discussions as the Premier has said that a priority is to ensure the people of these First Nations share in the economic benefits of economic development that occurs within their traditional territories. All of this doesn’t have to be done behind closed doors. Yukoners deserve to know what’s on the table.

For example, is access to the Kotaneelee fund being discussed? Is more category A land or an asset construction agreement on the table? Are separate resource royalty agreements being discussed?

The Premier has still not given sufficient reason as to why Yukoners are being kept in the dark about what is being negotiated.

Hon. Mr. Pasloski: I find it rather humourous that the Leader of the Third Party continues to criticize for not meeting with First Nations and then criticizes for meeting with First Nations, but again, what is consistent is his inconsistency on practically every issue.

We’ll continue to work with the Kaska Dena Council and with the White River First Nation on reconciliation agreements. We’ll continue to honour that relationship. We won’t negotiate on the floor of this Assembly, and it is certainly out of respect that we continue to have these conversations, and we don’t prejudge and we don’t publicly talk about all of those items that we are working on.

What we are working on — and is clear — is a path forward to ensure that those First Nations without a final self-government agreement are able to benefit from economic opportunities that exist within their traditional territory and that they have a say as well in all of those aspects that occur within their traditional territory. This government is committed to continuing to work with them. We aren’t going to set an artificial timeline for those negotiations. We will be respectful of those negotiations, and we will be very excited to report progress, when the time comes, to this Assembly and to Yukoners.