Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement Act

An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in August 2015.

Status

This bill has received Royal Assent and is now law.

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

Part 1 amends the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act to provide that the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 does not apply in Yukon, to allow for the coordination of reviews of transboundary projects, to establish time limits for environmental assessments and to establish a cost recovery regime. It also amends that Act to provide for binding ministerial policy directions to the Board and the delegation of any of the Minister’s powers, duties and functions to the territorial minister, and allows for a member of the board who is participating in a screening or review to continue to act for that purpose after the expiry of their term or their removal due to a loss of residency in Yukon, until decision documents are issued. In addition, it amends that Act to clarify that a new assessment of a project is not required when an authorization is renewed or amended unless there has been any significant change to the original project.

Part 2 amends the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act to modify the maximum term of certain licences, to establish time limits with respect to the making of certain decisions, to allow for the making of arrangements relating to security, to establish a cost recovery regime, to modify the offence and penalty regime and to create an administrative monetary penalty scheme.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

June 8, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a third time and do pass.
June 8, 2015 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following: “this House decline to give third reading to Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Surface Rights Tribunal Act, because it: ( a) was developed without adequate consultation with Yukon First Nations, as per the government of Canada’s constitutional duty, and without adequate consultation with the people of Yukon, as per the government’s democratic duty; ( b) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to unilaterally issue binding policy direction on the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, which undermines the neutrality of the environmental and socio-economic assessment process; ( c) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to delegate powers to the territorial minister without the consent of First Nations; ( d) provides broad exemptions for renewals and amendments of projects; and ( e) includes proposed timelines on the assessment process that will affect the thoroughness of environmental and socio-economic assessments and opportunities for First Nation input on major projects. ”.
June 3, 2015 Passed That Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, {as amended}, be concurred in at report stage [with a further amendment/with further amendments] .
June 3, 2015 Failed
June 3, 2015 Passed That, in relation to Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.
March 11, 2015 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
March 11, 2015 Passed That, in relation to Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the Bill; and That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at second reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and, in turn, every question necessary for the disposal of the said stage of the Bill shall be put forthwith and successively, without further debate or amendment.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:05 a.m.
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Madawaska—Restigouche New Brunswick

Conservative

Bernard Valcourt ConservativeMinister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Speaker, in 2007, this government launched a comprehensive northern strategy focused on sovereignty, the environment, the economy, and governance. Under the leadership of this Prime Minister, for the past nine years we have been providing northerners with the tools they need to take advantage of the vast natural resources at their disposal in an environmentally sustainable manner. By doing so, we are creating jobs and economic opportunities for northerners, ensuring the long-term prosperity of the north for generations to come.

Members can take great satisfaction from our progress in advancing the northern strategy in recent years thanks to extensive federal infrastructure investments, whether it be the creation of the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency under the able leadership of the Minister of the Environment, the devolution of the Northwest Territories, the Canadian High Arctic Research Station in the eastern Arctic, the Inuvik to Tuktoyaktuk highway, Canada's leadership on the Arctic Council, or the extension of protected land and marine areas, and the list goes on.

The bill before us today, Bill S-6, is the next example of how we are delivering on our northern strategy. This bill will complete the modernization of regulatory regimes in the north by bringing Yukon and Nunavut's regulatory regimes up to speed and on par with other Canadian jurisdictions.

This legislative work was started in 2013 with the Northern Jobs and Growth Act and completed in the Northwest Territories last year with the Northwest Territories Devolution Act. Now it is time to finish what we have started.

The proposed amendments to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act are designed to make the regulatory systems in Yukon and Nunavut more efficient and effective, while ensuring sound environmental stewardship.

This is what Yukon Premier Darrell Pasloski told senators during hearings on the bill:

We [the Yukon] are now in a position where we are not as competitive with other jurisdictions. Quite frankly, we would like to get back on an equal footing with the other jurisdictions in this country.

Bill S-6 would do just that. It would make the two territories' regulatory regimes consistent with others across the north and in the rest of Canada. This would ensure Yukon and Nunavut remain attractive places to live, work and invest for generations to come.

Let me briefly highlight the many advantages of Bill S-6 for each territory. I will begin by summarizing some facts about updating YESAA.

It is important to underline that the amendments were informed by extensive discussions and consultations in Yukon over a period of seven years. These included the five-year review of YESAA as well as more recent engagement on this legislation.

Bill S-6 is consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement and the individual first nations final agreements signed by the federal and territorial governments and Yukon first nations.

Decision-making powers over natural resources that currently rest with the territorial government or the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board would not change. Neither the federal government nor the territorial government would have the authority to influence, direct, or interfere with an assessment process. It is especially important that aboriginal input and participation would remain central to the YESAA process.

It is important to point out that the Senate Standing Committee Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources completed its review of the legislation last fall. At the end of its review, it endorsed the bill unanimously. I submit that it correctly recognized that the passage of this bill would help foster economic development in the region and would create jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity in an increasingly global marketplace.

These are the facts.

Allow me to take a moment to clarify, for the record, a few of the concerns that have been raised with regard to this bill, because as with every bill that comes through this place, there is very rarely unanimity. Bill S-6 would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with the authority to give binding policy direction to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. The minister could also delegate his authority to the Government of Yukon in certain situations, if the need arose.

Including the power to delegate authorities to the territorial government is, I submit, consistent with the northern strategy and its aim of devolving and improving northern governance. It does not conflict with land claim agreements nor does it disrupt the tripartite spirit of the environmental assessment process. Further, and I have made this very clear, the government has no intention of exercising its authority to delegate any powers to the territorial government in the near term. Of course, if any such delegation were contemplated in the future, it would be consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement and would also be in the best interests of Yukoners, including Yukon first nations.

When it comes to the issue of policy direction, there has been a lot of fearmongering about what types of policy direction the minister could issue. Allow to me alleviate these concerns. Not only does this power already exist in the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, but in each and every case when this power was exercised, which was four times, it was to protect the interests of first nations and to ensure that all the parties involved, namely the board, had a common understanding, with the government, of agreements the government had subsequently undertaken. That is important to point out.

Policy direction could only be given within the framework of existing legislation and land claims agreements and after consultation with the board. This amendment would apply to matters such as board conduct, the use of new technology, and satisfying roles and responsibilities regarding aboriginal consultation.

Contrary to the myths that have been spread around, it absolutely does not affect the independence of the board or the board's decision-making abilities with respect to a project under consideration or a completed assessment. The board maintains the jurisdiction, as set out in the agreement, of an independent arm's-length body responsible for making recommendations to decision-making bodies based on their socioeconomic and environmental assessment.

Finally, and I am not sure if my colleagues are aware of it, this authority also exists and is consistent with territorial legislation that allows a Yukon minister to issue policy direction to boards, which has been done on one occasion.

While the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board has a clear record of completing reviews in a timely manner, the Yukon Environmental and Socio-Economic Assessment Act does not set out the “beginning-to-end” time limits for project reviews that exist in every other jurisdiction in Canada.

Bill S-6 fixes that problem. The time limits in Bill S-6 are intended to put Yukon on a level playing field with the rest of Canada and the world, minimize investor uncertainty and make project planning more predictable, while allowing for necessary extensions that could arise with more complex projects.

Of course, the time required by the proponent to gather information and undertake any studies necessary for the review would be excluded. We heard repeatedly from government and industry about the time and money spent on assessments for minor changes that had no substantive impact on a project or the environment.

This proposed legislation clarifies that authorization to renew or amend a project would only require a new assessment where there has been a significant change to the project. This would reduce the administrative burden on the proponent and the board and ensure predictability for established projects.

First nations would have a direct role in determining whether there has been a significant change when the project is located on settlement land and the first nation is a decision body for the project.

There has been much debate about the Yukon component of this bill, particularly with regard to the concerns I just mentioned. I think hon. members will have no choice but to agree, after hearing these remarks, that indeed the bill was developed with the best interests of Yukoners in mind, including those of Yukon first nations, and will help us to finally bring this bill into law.

I want to take a moment to recognize the tireless efforts of the member of Parliament for Yukon on this bill. If it were not for him, it would not have been possible, due to the NDP's interminable ban on committee travel, for the committee to have concluded its hearings in Yukon to hear directly from Yukoners, which was significant. I think Yukoners should be grateful for such a hard-working Conservative member of Parliament.

Another aspect of this bill that has not been debated, it seems to me, is the one that concerns Nunavut. For the record, the Government of Nunavut has called on us to take action to modernize the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act.

The hon. Johnny Mike, Minister of Environment in Nunavut stated:

...the Government of Nunavut believes that this bill will make a number of improvements to the regulatory regime in Nunavut....this is an important piece of legislation for the North and will contribute to the environmental protection and economic development of Nunavut.

In developing this proposed legislation, the Government of Canada sought the input of the territorial government and Nunavut Tunnagavik Inc., NTI, which represents the Inuit of Nunavut. We also engaged with the Nunavut Water Board, with industry and other federal government departments prior to preparing the Nunavut related provisions of Bill S-6. We listened closely to the input received during consultation, which is reflected in the proposed legislation.

Residents of Nunavut can look forward to an improved regulatory environment as a result of these efforts. The changes proposed would introduce beginning to end time limits on the issuance of water licences and reduce the duplication and uncertainty of unnecessary reviews. They would also give the Nunavut Water Board the ability, at its discretion, to issue water licences for the anticipated duration of a project. Life of project water licences would extend the maximum duration of a licence from 25 years to the anticipated life of the project. This would enable companies to undertake long-term planning and implement the principle of one project, one assessment.

Bill S-6 also addresses the long-standing disincentive to investment in Nunavut, security over bonding. Over bonding occurs when a company is required to provide more security than would be required to remediate a project at its completion because both regional Inuit associations and the Nunavut Water Board have set security amounts. With Bill S-6, the federal minister of aboriginal affairs and northern development would be given legislative authority to enter into agreements relating to security with Inuit landowners and the project applicant. The Nunavut Water Board would still be responsible for setting the amount of security, but the board would be required to consider any arrangement reached.

Bill S-6 would also implement stronger enforcement provisions to increase environmental stewardship, as well as align the act with other federal environmental statutes. The proposed legislation would increase fines for violations and allow for the creation of administrative monetary penalties to encourage compliance with regulatory requirements and remove the financial benefit of rule breaking.

There is broad support for the Yukon and Nunavut regulatory improvement act throughout Nunavut. Northerners recognize that consultation has been robust and that the proposed amendments would foster investor confidence, economic opportunities and growth while promoting sound environmental stewardship in the eastern Arctic.

For example, while giving testimony at the Senate committee, the witness from the Nunavut Water Board said:

...we were very much part of the working group and very much contributed to that working group all throughout and indeed are quite satisfied how well some of the issues we raised were heard.

As well, the President of NTI, Cathy Towtongie, wrote to me, saying, “NTI has no objections to the modest changes proposed to the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act”.

My colleague, the Minister of the Environment, who represents Nunavut, has further reinforced the desire of her constituents to see Bill S-6 passed. As she has observed, the proposed legislation plays a crucial role in preparing for devolution to be successful in Nunavut. It would ensure the water management regime that is eventually transferred from the federal government to the Government of Nunavut would encourage investment and allow the territory to fully benefit from increased resource development.

Of course, our government remains committed to moving forward with the implementation of the legislative changes in a collaborative manner, respecting the spirit and intent of the land claims agreement in both territories.

For all of these reasons, I urge all-party support for this most worthy proposed legislation.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Murray Rankin NDP Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks of the minister today about the debate on Bill S-6 that would affect the people of Yukon so dramatically.

I think it first should be noted, this is the first and only day of debate on third reading for Bill S-6, as the government has decided to, once again in an unprecedented way, use time allocation to shut down debate on legislation in this place.

The minister talked about “broad support” for the bill, and it respecting the spirit and intent of the Umbrella Final Agreement in land claims in Yukon. One of the great accomplishments of Canada was the creation of the Yukon Environmental and Social Assessment Board, YESA. That was a three-legged stool with the equal participation by statute after the Umbrella Final Agreement, of first nations, Yukon government and federal government.

I had occasion to work. I was the legal adviser to the Yukon government during the self-government agreement preceding YESA. With this bill, people of Yukon are saying that this is tilting that three-legged stool in an unbalanced way to the federal government, and Council of Yukon First Nations are talking about lawsuits in order to stop this misguided legislation.

My question to the minister is, how does he say that there is this “broad support” for the legislation when people are talking about lawsuits to stop it and to change the balance that had been created so effectively when YESA was first created?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, to answer the hon. member's question, I would like to point out the fact, which he omits to mention, that the vast majority of the amendments in Bill S-6 to the YESA process stem from the five-year review that took place.

I referred in my remarks to a seven-year process that took place in order to bring Bill S-6 before this House.

When I talked of broad support, the fact of the matter is that there is indeed broad support, total support for all of those measures except four particular amendments. These four particular amendments have also been the subject of consultation with the first nations. As the record will show, all Yukoners, stakeholders, industry, government and first nations participated in the consultation process on these amendments, and the four particular amendments in question are probably most important to level the playing field I referred to.

The Yukon Territory deserves to benefit from the same rules as other territories and those provinces south of 60, and they ensure the certainty required to promote investment into the responsible natural resource development of the territory.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the minister is so confident about the legislation he has brought forward, and yet, as has been pointed out, again through time allocation, is limiting participation, which is somewhat typical of the entire process of the bill.

I was not able to be there at the committee stage to hear the witnesses, but I have heard from a significant number of individuals in regard to Bill S-6. If the minister believes his legislation is so great, why then has there been so much resistance by the different stakeholders in coming on board with the member's legislation?

On the one hand we have the government saying, “Here is this wonderful piece of legislation”, but the communities that it is affecting are obviously offside with the minister.

How does the minister justify bringing forward legislation when he was not able to even come close to achieving any sort of consensus6 To illustrate just how bad it is, the only way the government has been able to pass this thing through to date is through time allocation. If it was not using its majority, it would not be passing the legislation.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the observation of the hon. member, again, is very isolated. The fact of the matter is that this bill is fully supported and asked for by the entire legislature of the Yukon. The Government of Yukon supports this bill, asked for its implementation, and what is more important is that all of the provisions in the bill are fully consistent with the letter of the Umbrella Final Agreement.

This is not news to anybody in the Yukon who has read the Umbrella Final Agreement. All of these measures were contemplated, and I cannot understand why Liberals would want to keep the Yukon on a playing field that is inferior to that of other jurisdictions in Canada so as to prevent investment in the Yukon. That is what this bill would achieve.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Colin Mayes Conservative Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the minister mentioned in his speech, last year the NDP acted unilaterally to impose a travel ban on committee travel. This is clearly a case of the NDP not acting in collaboration with first nations and northerners, as our government has been doing.

Thankfully, due to the strong leadership of the member of Parliament for Yukon, who strongly advocated for committee hearings to take place in Yukon, we were able to hear from Yukoners. I lived in Yukon for 28 years, consider myself a former Yukoner, and I know that Yukoners appreciate Ottawa hearing their voice.

This is significant. Could the minister please take a moment to highlight for the members opposite how this government continues to work in collaboration with northerners and first nations?

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:30 a.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I briefly want to thank the hon. member for his question. Notwithstanding that he no longer lives there, he has a strong commitment to Yukon.

The hon. member referred to the member of Parliament for Yukon, and I want to pay tribute to that Conservative member, because he rose above politics. Unfortunately, every time he brings a measure that is aimed at trying to do something positive for the benefit of people, other people, especially opposition members, try to score cheap political points.

Let us forget the fundamental of what is aimed for here. The member for Yukon, throughout all of this debate, and it has been tough at points, always rose above politics and addressed the best interests of Yukoners. If there was any doubt in anybody's mind on this side of the House that this is not in the best interests of Yukoners and also of Canada, then the bill would not be here.

This is about promoting growth, creating jobs, ensuring long-term prosperity and creating opportunities for Canadians in the north, Yukoners who love to live there, but would prefer to continue improving their standard of living, which this bill would achieve.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, having listened to the minister's comments, I want him to know that he is completely incorrect when he says that the entire legislature of Yukon supported this bill. I was up there a few weeks ago and spoke on this bill. I met with many people, and I can say that there are members of the legislative assembly in Whitehorse who are very opposed to this bill. They reflected first nations and community concerns, because people believe that this bill would undermine agreements that are already in place.

I would like to ask the minister to withdraw his comment that this bill is supported by, I think he said, the whole legislative assembly. That is simply not true. He can check the record. It is not true.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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Conservative

Bernard Valcourt Conservative Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, I will admit that when the House of Commons passes something and they vote against it, that does not prevent the statement that the House approved it. The legislature approved it, and that is a fact.

As to the other point the member made about some people being against it, of course they are. However, we have to look at the overall players. There are a few objectors to a few of the provisions of the bill, but the overwhelming majority of the provisions are endorsed by first nations, by the legislature of the Yukon, and hopefully also by this House, because the Senate has already unanimously approved the bill.

Yukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

June 5th, 2015 / 10:35 a.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in this House to speak to this critical bill. I want to begin by correcting the record. The minister who just spoke characterized support from Yukon first nations in a way that is simply not the case.

I am proud to be part of the NDP, the official opposition that stands with Yukon first nations. We categorically oppose Bill S-6, not as the minister said. We oppose it along with many Yukoners, members of the legislature, members of organizations, environmental organizations, esteemed Yukoners who were part of putting together YESAA, and members of industry. They are all expressing their opposition to this bill. I am proud that we are standing with them today to do so as well.

The Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development travelled to the Yukon to hear testimony from those who will be affected most by Bill S-6. We now know that Yukoners do not want this bill. We know that first nations do not want this bill. To pass it would be imposition on their right of self-determination, and in the case of Yukon first nations, it will be a breach of the final agreement.

The callous disrespect that the Conservative government repeatedly shows towards treaty rights is both outrageous and, frankly, illegal. It knows that. It knows that Bill S-6 will send them into the courts, battling against Yukon first nations.

The fact is that Conservatives do not care. We know that the government is currently engaged in litigation with 95 first nations. It has spent hundreds of thousands of taxpayers' dollars fighting indigenous rights in court. Enough is enough.

As I attended the truth and reconciliation closing events this week, I saw thousands of Canadians who are ready to repair the ongoing violence of colonialism. However, we need our government to be a partner in this great task. Knowingly brushing off the Yukon first nations final agreement is illegal, immoral, and it will be expensive. More importantly, this week, it is also opposite to the spirit of reconciliation.

It is perhaps most disappointing in this case that Yukoners of all kinds are in fervent disagreement with Bill S-6. They want to uphold the final agreement. They see it as their agreement as well. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, known as YESAA, is a made in Yukon program, and they worked hard to achieve it. They want to be good neighbours and good business partners with first nations and the federal government.

What is clear, since hearing testimony from Yukoners, is that the territorial Yukon government does not speak on behalf of the people. This is clear, as it supports this legislation.

I remember communicating with the Grand Chief of the Council of Yukon First Nations, Ruth Massie, who stated:

This whole process attacks the integrity of our constitutionally protected agreements and Yukon First Nations will stand by their agreements even if it means going to court, they give us no choice. We did not sign our agreements to implement them in the courts but we will protect them.

The people of the Yukon and first nations alike are baffled by the contents of Bill S-6. The YESAA recently underwent a five-year review, through which recommendations were made. However, the four amendments that are the cause of concern appeared nowhere as recommendations in the five-year review.

These four changes are contrary to the intent of the land claims agreement and undermine the neutrality of the YESAA process. The changes are that the federal Minister of Aboriginal Affairs will be endowed with the authority to provide policy directives to the YESAA board; that the federal minister will be given the power to delegate his federal powers to the Yukon government; that the exemptions for renewal and amendments could work to eliminate requirements for projects that could have major effects on the environment and communities; and, finally, that the condensed timelines on the YESAA assessments will limit the thoroughness of environmental assessments and limit the opportunity for first nations input.

Grand Chief Ruth Massie said this of the amendments in Bill S-6:

Yukon First nations have met with the Government of Canada, specifically [the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada] and have asked them to remove four problematic amendments proposed to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act [that was] established in Chapter 11 of the Umbrella final agreement and each final land claim agreement of the eleven Yukon First Nations.

1. Yukon First Nations are opposed to the proposed amendments to YESAA because they undermine our Aboriginal rights, titles and interests.

2. The four proposed amendments were not discussed with the agreement signatories prior to being considered, a complete surprise to Yukon first Nations. This is a direct breach of the constitutionally protected agreements for all eleven Yukon First Nations in regards to consultation and accommodation.

3. Canada's decision to impose the four proposed amendments will likely result in litigation with Yukon First Nations. This will affect the Yukon economy and cause [an impact on] any future resource development. Very unnecessary actions!

The question, why is the current government taking actions that it knows are unlawful and will lead to litigation? Why do Conservatives consistently force first nations, Inuit, and Métis communities into costly, protracted court battles that they will ultimately lose? The answer, I am afraid, lies in the Conservatives' willingness to put the perceived interests of extraction companies above environmental and first nations rights.

As with so much other legislation we have seen in this Parliament, the Conservatives intend to obliterate the environmental assessments and protections that Canada has established. I am speaking of Bill C-45, the omnibus bill that destroyed the navigable waters act; or Bill C-38, which made sweeping changes to Fisheries and Oceans.

What is most interesting about Bill S-6 is that a good portion of the businesses and extractive corporations with interests in the Yukon are also opposed to it. Industry is learning faster than government that in order to have sound, productive business dealings on or affecting indigenous lands, industries must secure meaningful consent and partnerships first.

I would like to read from a letter sent by a CEO of the Casino Mining Corporation, Paul West-Sells, who wrote to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs:

On behalf of Casino Mining Corporation...I am putting forward our company's concerns regarding the fragility of intergovernmental relations in the Yukon surrounding Bill S-6 and the negative impact this is having on the territory's mineral industry.

It is imperative for Casino that the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act...has the broad support of all governments in order to ensure the confidence of both project proponents and Yukon residents in the YESAA process and to facilitate investments in the territory.

In other words, if there is no confidence that first nations will support the government's environmental assessments, there can be no confidence in the investments that businesses want to make there. Bill S-6 could have disastrous implications on the Yukon economy.

I have been told that Yukon is proud that YESAA is homegrown and serves Yukoners and first nations. It is their tripartite agreement that created it. The current government is focused on destroying the protections over so many local and beloved waters and ecosystems. Yukoners know that YESAA is unique, and that it stands to protect the biosphere and their relationships with the indigenous communities they live with.

One of the repeated concerns that has been raised by Yukoners is that their voices have not been heard throughout this process. I quoted Grand Chief Ruth Massie, and I also want to read into the record the voices of other Yukoners who have been fighting Bill S-6.

Mary Jane Jim, councillor of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, provided testimony before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. She said:

The CYFN and Yukon First Nations assert that the federal government would breach its constitutional duty to uphold the honour of the Crown when it proceeded unilaterally with amendments to the YESAA.

A great friend, Yukon NDP leader Liz Hanson, said in October 2014:

Eleven years ago, devolution gave the Yukon government province-like powers for land and resource management. This was an important step in Yukon’s history and crucial in Yukon’s ability to determine our own future, a future grounded in respectful relationships among Yukon First Nation governments and the Yukon government.

With these proposed amendments to what is a made-in-Yukon environmental assessment process, YESAA, it’s no longer ours.

The NDP leader Liz Hansen also said:

What we need, what is sorely missing, is a willingness to engage in an open and honest manner. We need a relationship built on dialogue and respect, rather than on lawsuits and secret negotiations.

A Yukon news editorial in June 2014, entitled “Environmental assessment reform should be done in the open”, wrote:

A long list of people deserve raspberries for this needlessly shady behaviour. At the top of the naughty list are Senator Daniel Lang and [the member for Yukon], who are supposed to ensure that the interests of Yukoners are represented in Ottawa. Instead, they’ve kept the public out of the loop, other than [the member for Yukon] uttering vague generalities about the forthcoming changes without offering any meaningful specifics. Shame on them.

Chief Eric Fairclough, chief of Little Salmon Carmacks First Nation, is quoted as having said:

—YESAA originates from and is rooted in our land claim agreements. It manages the use and the development of lands, waters, and resources in Yukon. As a result, implementation of YESAA may affect the exercise of aboriginal treaty rights. In this case, the crown has not acted in accordance with its constitutional duties owed to Yukon first nations. The crown has breached its duties to work with Yukon first nations and take steps to accommodate our concerns. The crown has not acted honourably or fairly. The crown has breached its constitutional duty to act in the honour of the crown.

Chief Carl Sidney of the Teslin Tlingit Council is quoted as having said:

Industry and development come and go, but we are here forever and we carry that sacred responsibility. YESAA is connected to those beliefs and values through our agreements and should not be amended without our consent. We entered into the agreements as a way forward as an expression of who we are as people. An essential part of that vision was the recognition of and respect for our land, our water, and the air we breathe. They are a part of us and we are part of our environment for all time. It is our collective responsibility as a treaty party to ensure these unique relationships will be part of our future.

The amendments in Bill S-6 imposed by Canada at the last minute undermine what we have created together. It is critical to success that we continue to work together as was the vision under our agreements. Canada's stated intention in entering into final agreements was to create certainty about the use and ownership of Yukon land and natural resources. Substantial aboriginal rights, including title, were exchanged for constitutionally protected treaty rights. That was a high price to pay to achieve certainty for all Canadians and the Yukon first nations who have signed agreements and have paid it in full.

I would like to read into the record Chief Angela Demit's words, the Chief of White River First Nation, who said:

We participated in meetings with Canada about the changes to YESAA. Through that experience we have understood that the changes being proposed by Canada have much more to do with an agenda made in Ottawa than with the recommendations that came out of the YESAA five-year review process.

Mr. Tom Cove, director of the Department of Lands and Resources for the Teslin Tlingit Council, said:

If I may, if the bill passes as is, the potential for litigation is a virtual, absolute certainty and is a great concern to Teslin Tlingit Council, other first nations, and a lot of Yukoners, and to investors outside the Yukon who have an interest in investing further in natural resource development, but in many other ways as well. It's of great concern and it is a virtual certainty. I'm not exactly sure, but the last time I looked I think there are five law firms already hired to prepare the work that's necessary in anticipation of this bill going forward. That's a lot of momentum in that direction.

Chief Doris Bill, the chief of Kwanlin Dün First Nation, stated:

Providing a single party with authority to direct the board is fundamentally inconsistent with any legislation that stems from our tripartite treaties. While the treaties obligate Canada to enact YESAA, it does not own YESAA and cannot choose to dictate its own policies on the independent assessment body.

Ms. Millie Olsen, deputy chief of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, stated at committee:

YESAA currently has timelines for assessors to review each iteration. This approach encourages proponents to prepare comprehensive applications that minimize iterations. Proponents who prepare adequate applications quickly are rewarded under the current process because they can proceed quickly.

On the other hand, the Bill S-6 approach of applying a beginning-to-end timeline will reward proponents who prolong the adequacy review phase by using up time with multiple iterations. The approach will penalize assessors and reviewers like first nations because it will shorten the most important public review phase, infringing on our right for comprehensive reviews of projects.

Chief Steve Smith, the chief of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, testified at committee. He stated:

Bill S-6 is a roadblock to reconciliation. The unconstitutional bill demonstrates the federal government's unilateralism and lack of understanding of the relationships that arise from the final agreements, the federal government's failure to abide by the collaborative development assessment regime mandated by the final agreements, and the federal government's indifference to fostering productive and collaborative treaty relations with Yukon first nations. This is fundamentally unacceptable.

Ms. Wendy Randall, the chair and executive committee member of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, YESAA, stated at committee:

It is important to note that YESAB is not part of government. We are not a regulator. We do not issue permits or authorizations, and we do not make final decisions on projects. We are an independent board that conducts environmental and socio-economic assessments and makes recommendations to decision bodies. Those decision bodies are the three orders of government that have control over land and resources in Yukon, so federal, territorial, and first nation governments....

We have 10 years of experience conducting environmental assessments on projects, from very small projects to very large [ones]. We have flexibility now in timelines that we have established under our rules, which for the most part, I feel, work fairly well.

Certainly there are areas in which things can be improved. We have proponents. We have first nations. We have other groups with sometimes different interests who feel there could be improvements made. I'm unsure until I see how these changes would play out or be implemented whether they would accomplish that or not.

Ms. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president, Lands and Environment for the Kaminak Gold Corporation, stated:

—Kaminak is concerned that the process through which YESAA is being amended is creating increased distrust between governments and uncertainty in the assessment and regulatory process for current and future projects in Yukon.

I have shared the voices of Yukoners of Yukon first nations who have stood up against Bill S-6. They are standing up against the government's agenda.

As a proud northerner myself, I stand with them, along with my colleagues in the NDP, in solidarity against Bill S-6.

I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following:

“this House decline to give third reading to Bill S-6, An Act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act, because it:

(a) was developed without adequate consultation with Yukon First Nations, as per the government of Canada's constitutional duty, and without adequate consultation with the people of Yukon, as per the government's democratic duty;

(b) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to unilaterally issue binding policy direction on the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, which undermines the neutrality of the environmental and socio-economic assessment process;

(c) provides the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with authority to delegate powers to the territorial minister without the consent of First Nations;

(d) provides broad exemptions for renewals and amendments of projects; and

(e) includes proposed timelines on the assessment process that will affect the thoroughness of environmental and socio-economic assessments and opportunities for First Nation input on major projects.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, our House leader, for that important question, because it really gets to the crux of what we are talking about here today.

Bill S-6 has been a complete failure from the beginning. The fact is, first nation positions were not respected in the deliberations that led up to Bill S-6. There were some discussions, but they do not qualify as appropriate consultation. Certainly when the amendments were made, including the four amendments that are deemed totally unacceptable by Yukon first nations, who said that they are not what they said in their meetings, the government failed to go back to the drawing board and work with first nations to find a solution.

What is clear is that the government fails when it comes to its duty to consult. It fails when it comes to working in the spirit of reconciliation we have been talking about so much over the last few weeks. Fundamentally, it is a failure when it comes to working in partnership with first nations in this country to do nothing more than create certainty and protections that could help support economic development that would benefit first nations, all Yukoners, and all Canadians. This is what is shameful about what we are seeing from the Conservative government on Bill S-6.

As I pointed out in my speech, we have already heard that Yukon first nations, as a result of this failure to consult, are ready to go to court. They are ready to take this to the courts. It did not have to be this way. Unfortunately, this is where the current Conservative government has brought Yukon first nations.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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Scarborough Centre Ontario

Conservative

Roxanne James ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, what I think is shameful is that this member from the NDP voted against giving women living on reserves the same matrimonial property rights that everyone else has across this country, including every single woman in this chamber.

I would like to ask that member how she could vote against a bill that actually put in place equality for women living on reserves.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very disappointed that government members, instead of actually owning up to their failure when it comes to Bill S-6, their failure to stand up for Yukoners, and their failure to stand up for Yukon first nations, try to change the channel.

Since the Conservatives have raised this issue of matrimonial property rights, speaking of consultation, they also failed to consult when it came to developing that legislation they put forward a few years ago.

I spent the morning in this House, and I find it passing strange that the Conservatives choose to talk about matrimonial property rights when we raise the issue of the $1.1 billion they left unspent on aboriginal issues, when we raise Bill S-6, when we raise missing and murdered indigenous women, fire safety in communities, and boil-water advisories. It is a long list.

It is time for the Conservatives to realize that, frankly, the vast majority of indigenous people, certainly the ones I have heard from, cannot wait to get them out of government. They are an obstruction to indigenous people in our country moving ahead, and Bill S-6 is a perfect example of that.

Yukoners and Yukon first nations have come up with a solution that works for them and works for their territory, and Ottawa is once again waging its patriarchal, paternalistic force to impose its approach, an approach that does not work, that will only lead to further litigation, and that will stall economic development in this territory.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Tyrone Benskin NDP Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, my esteemed colleague took the words right out of my mouth. I was going to ask her to comment on the blatant paternalistic attitude of the Conservative government in terms of its dealings with our first nation brothers and sisters, especially in light of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report about coming together.

I would ask the member if she would comment further on how Bill S-6 flies in the face of the spirit and meaning of the Truth and Reconciliation report.

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June 5th, 2015 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for that important question and for bringing it back to a sentiment that has inspired many of us this week, certainly on our side of the House. It is the idea that now Canada is ready to embark on a journey of reconciliation. However, what is clear is that the partner that is certainly not there and not willing to embark on that journey is the government.

Bill S-6 is a perfect example of how the government is willing to impose legislation that will only lead to it being taken to court by Yukon first nations. It is essentially forcing first nations in the Yukon to spend money they surely could be using on other important priorities to litigate the government, along with the other maybe 95 first nations that are in court right now with the government.

We have heard from members of the government on Bill S-6 that there are only four recommendations first nations take issue with, that basically the government knows best, and that this is about moving forward and supporting resource development. These are the kinds of mistakes of the past made by this government and previous Liberal governments. It is the Ottawa knows best approach. It is the federal government imposing its will on first nations rather than consulting and working in partnership and collaboration where necessary.

At the end of the day, it is Yukon first nations and Yukoners who are going to pay the price. Hopefully, it will not be for too long, because soon there will be a new government in Canada, one that stands with first nations and respects first nations rights and that can truly build a brighter future for all of us in this country.