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(Joel Krahn/Yukon News file) The Attorney General of Canada has filed a response to Teslin Tlingit Council’s petition accusing the Canadian government of refusing or failing to properly negotiate federal funding, calling the Yukon First Nation’s legal action “premature and unnecessary.”

The TTC filed a lawsuit on Dec. 18, 2017, that alleged Canada’s approach to negotiating financial transfer agreements (FTA) with the TTC does not meet obligations outlined in the First Nation’s final and self-government agreements and as such, are breaking the law.

However, in a response filed to the court Feb. 26, the Attorney General of Canada claims that isn’t true, and that FTA negotiations in accordance with final and self-governing agreements have been taking place “over the last several years … and continuing to date.”

“Canada has been negotiating with the TTC and other (self-governing Yukon First Nations) towards new FTAs on the basis of the principles set out by TTC in its petition,” the response reads. “Canada denies that it has refused or failed to negotiate with TTC on the basis of those principles.”

The response alleges that the TTC’s petition is “premature” on the grounds that Canada and the TTC are still negotiating towards a new FTA and that Canada and self-governing Indigenous governments have been collaboratively developing “a policy framework that addresses the principles raised by TTC in its petition.”

The response says that the TTC withdrew from the collaborative process in September 2016, but that representatives from other self-governing Indigenous governments and Canada produced a draft of that policy in December 2017. The draft addresses several of the orders the TTC is seeking in its petition, the response says, including Canada’s need to take self-governing Indigenous governments’ unique fiscal needs into account and Canada’s legal obligation to negotiate towards FTAs based on total citizenship, not just citizens who have status under the Indian Act.

“The other 10 (self-governing Yukon First Nations) have praised Minister (of Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Carolyn) Bennett and the government of Canada for the ‘truly ground-breaking’ nature of this Collaborative Process,” the response says.

Canada has also held regular and ongoing meetings with the seven self-governing Yukon First nations with expiring FTAs since March 2016, the response claims, including the TTC, until it filed its petition and became an observer.

Even so, the response claims that Canada has “never refused or failed to negotiate with TTC, even after receiving their petition.” The response says Canada will respond in writing to the presentations (requesting additional funding) the TTC made in August 2017 and February. Canada will respond by March 2018.

“The difficulty in responding to this petition demonstrates its prematurity,” the response says. “Evidence is being created as this response is being prepared. Meetings are ongoing and scheduled where some or all of the issues raised by the TTC will continue to be discussed.”

The response adds that taking a “litigious approach” to address issues that arise during ongoing negotiations “does not accord with the spirit and intent of the Final and Self-government Agreements.”

“The litigious process removes the dispute resolution process from the responsibility and accountability of the parties and risks an imposed solution on the parties that may not reflect the best interests of either part, or contribute to reconciliation,” it says.

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com
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