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.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate many of the comments the member has put on the record. I do not necessarily agree with them, especially when it comes to trying to give the impression that the current government has been very strong in developing and assisting in setting the social framework up north. To try to give the impression that it is the strongest in the history of Canada is somewhat fictitious at best, I would suggest.

When we look at Bill S-6, we see there has been a great deal of resistance. A lot of that resistance is in the community itself that has raised a number of concerns, and the government has not responded to those concerns. It was not that long ago that I was talking to Larry Bagnell and other members who came to our northwestern caucus, in essence saying that they have strong reservations that the government is not being sensitive to the needs of the north, nor is it listening.

Can the member explain to the constituents up north why the government has obviously not listened to our first nations, people of aboriginal heritage or many of our local communities who are trying to get the government to listen and make amendments that would make it better legislation?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Mark Strahl Conservative Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy that the hon. member brought up Larry Bagnell. When Larry Bagnell was speaking to constituents when he was the member for Yukon, he said he would go to Ottawa and vote against the long gun registry. What did he do? He came into this House and voted to maintain the long gun registry. Talk about not listening to constituents. That is why he is unemployed and why the member for Yukon now is a strong advocate for gun owners right across the north, a strong advocate for the aboriginal people in his community and the strongest representative that Yukon has had in 25 years.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time I have been given today as we speak about this very important issue. I am not from the north; I am from Newfoundland and Labrador, but I proudly stand here to discuss this particular bill simply because it is very important to people in a land that is so vast and so rich in natural resources. There is a lot to talk about indeed, and it is a very important part of who we are as Canadians.

I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to S-6, an act to amend the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act and the Nunavut Waters and Nunavut Surface Rights Tribunal Act.

This particular piece of legislation is the third in a suite of bills aimed at improving the regulatory regime in Canada's northern territories. Unfortunately, like most legislation the government introduces, the bill is being rammed through the House with only a limited debate. It was brought in without proper consultation with local communities and first nations, as has been discussed here in the past and certainly since debate started about 35 minutes ago.

There is a growing feeling in the north that the changes being imposed by the Conservatives through Bill S-6 will endanger the independence and effectiveness of environmental assessments and that it will eventually end up before the courts.

The objective of Bill S-6 is to update the regulatory regime in Yukon and Nunavut and align it with other regulatory regimes throughout Canada.

Among other things, this legislation would introduce legislated time limits for environmental assessments. It would provide the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development with the authority to give binding policy directions to the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board. It would also allow the delegation of any of the minister's powers, duties, and functions to the territorial minister by way of devolution; enable the government to develop cost-recovery regulatory measures; and reduce regulatory burdens by clarifying that a project need not undergo another assessment when a project authorization is to be renewed or amended, unless there is a significant change in the project. It would also introduce time limits for water licence reviews and allow for life-of-project water licences. It would also require the Nunavut Water Board to take into consideration agreements between Canada, regional Inuit associations, and proponents regarding posting of security to address the issue of over-bonding when more than one regulatory agency requires financial security for the same project.

Unlike Bill C-47 and Bill C-15, the two other bills aimed at improving the regulatory regime in Canada's northern territories, this legislation was introduced in the Senate on June 3, 2014, by Yukon Senator Dan Lang.

Some media reports indicate this particular piece of legislation may become a major issue in the next election, and some pundits question why the member of Parliament for Yukon was not the bill's sponsor. I am sure that over the next four or five months, he will have plenty of opportunity to answer that question and explain why the legislation was not amended when flaws were exposed and why there were no proper consultations with first nations, as many of my colleagues alluded to earlier in this debate.

Unfortunately, one of the strongest criticisms of Bill S-6 was on the absence of any meaningful consultation. For instance, the Council of Yukon First Nations, which represents eleven self-governing first nations, has made it clear that the Conservative government's consultations for the bill were not adequate to merit its support.

That is no surprise, as this particular government has a history of pushing through unwelcome changes in the territories.

For instance, with Bill C-15 the Conservatives passed the Northwest Territories Devolution Act. While devolution was started under a Liberal government, and we strongly supported that process, the much larger second part of the bill included the introduction of the Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act, which shortened assessment timelines, reduced the role of first nations, and made it easier to approve projects that lacked local support. That was certainly a shame to many of the stakeholders involved and a shame to us here in this House.

The proposed changes in Bill S-6, which we debate today, follow this path of a top-down, Ottawa-centred approach to dealing with the territories. That is the opposite of how Liberals approach northern development.

The Liberal Party of Canada believes that a sustainably developed resource sector is essential to the success of our economy and, if we get it right, will serve as an important foundation for future economic growth and job creation for middle-class Canadians. Our party supports developing resources in the north in a sustainable manner.

Unlike the Conservatives, we recognize that unlocking this economic engine is contingent on environmental sustainability and on impacted aboriginal communities being treated as equal partners. That approach has not been followed in this case. Many people in Yukon and Nunavut believe that Bill S-6 would have a negative impact on their lives and their communities, and they are upset with what the government is trying to pass off as what it considers to be meaningful consultation.

Here is what Grand Chief Ruth Massie of the Council of Yukon First Nations told the committee when it held hearings on the legislation in the north. She said:

The federal government's approach on Bill S-6 is a roadblock to reconciliation. Participants in mining, tourism, and other industries are concerned about how Bill S-6 might adversely affect the future for resource development in Yukon.

Grand Chief Massie went on to say that all eleven self-governing nations on the council unanimously oppose four provisions in the legislation. She said:

We oppose giving the minister full power to issue binding policy direction to the YESAB as proposed in clause 34 of Bill S-6....

On timelines, we oppose the establishment of beginning-to-end timelines for assessments conducted under YESAA.

On exemption from assessment for project renewals and amendments, we oppose the proposed exemption from assessment for renewals and amendments of licences and permits as proposed in clause 14 of Bill S-6.

Clearly there are issues with this legislation and clearly it is not just first nations communities that are concerned. Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president of lands and environment at Kaminak Gold Corporation, is worried that Bill S-6 may put a chill on investment in the north. Kaminak, a Canadian exploration company that has owned and explored mineral properties in all three territories, wants an accessible and stable regulatory regime. However, Ms. Rippin Armstrong told the committee that her company is worried that the process through which YESAA would be amended is creating increased distrust and the potential for legal action.

Here is her testimony. She said:

Kaminak is very concerned about this development, because court cases create assessment and regulatory uncertainty in addition to extraordinary delay, all of which erodes investor confidence.

She went on to tell the committee once again that:

Our Coffee gold project has yet to enter the YESAA process. If Bill S-6 is passed and challenged in court, the Coffee gold project and our presence in Yukon is uncertain. Kaminak urges the federal government to resume discussions with the first nations to work collectively toward reaching consensus on the proposed amendments to YESAA and avoid a court challenge.

That is good advice, but it went unheard. Why is the Conservative government not listening to what it is being told and fixing the flaws in this bill? It is obvious that members on the opposite side believe they can unilaterally impose the government's will on the north.

As my colleague from Labrador said when she spoke on Bill S-6, history has already demonstrated that resource development can be environmentally conscious, while also finding trilateral support among aboriginal governments, territorial and federal governments, and the local communities. This, indeed, is the only way to move forward with resource development. It is not just a moral obligation; it is, truly, a legal one.

The member for Labrador was correct when she said:

Unfortunately, despite spending years of working with Yukon first nations on a comprehensive review of the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, the federal government blindsided them earlier this year with a number of key changes that are contained in this bill and were not discussed throughout the process.

If the Conservative government persists in ramming these changes through, many observers believe that they will only create more local uncertainty and jeopardize development of the north.

Samson Hartland, the executive director of the Yukon Chamber of Mines, noted his organization enjoys a positive, constructive relationship. He told the committee that the chamber's 400 members want all levels of government to move toward a more respectful dialogue.

We must return to the original, respectful, and collaborative partnership with all aboriginal communities, including recognition of their inherent and treaty rights.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:40 p.m.
See context

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member reading his speech which, I am assuming, had some input from the member for Labrador, who was actually at the committee hearings in Yukon.

I am a little perplexed, though. He represented the Liberals' report stage lead speech, and Liberals expressed a number of concerns, but they did not move any amendments at report stage. In fact, amendments were moved by the official opposition and the leader of the Green Party, but those did go forward.

My question is this: why did the Liberals not move any amendments? In committee, they were okay with the ideas of time limits and significant change, two of the four amendments that he referenced.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, the irony is that the member asks his question under the assumption that these amendments are normally approved by the current majority government. Unfortunately, that is not the case. We talked about consultation in the committee process that took place and, of course, about the lack of consultation. There is a duty to consult, which has not been sufficient, by any stretch of the imagination, over the past number of years. Since the Conservatives came into power in 2006, we have seen scant evidence that this was actually happening. Here is yet another case.

I quoted several individuals from the private sector who are quite concerned about this in terms of investor confidence. That is in addition to first nations leaders, who also talked about the environmental regulatory regime that is being undermined. It goes on and on.

Again I go back to the point that if we think about this, what ails all of the people involved in the committee process really could have been dealt with up front. It could have been dealt with in a meaningful conversation or, in this case, consultation could have taken place to justify some of the changes that could have been made.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats share the concerns that my friend has raised about consultation or the lack of it, but what is a little surprising to me is that the people of the north were asking for the Senate committee to go there for consultations, but the Liberals in the Senate did not support it. I am wondering if the member could enlighten us as to why.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the Liberal Party has been a very strong advocate for the economic and social development in northern Canada. My question to my colleague is with regard to the importance of having that development, the impact it would have not only on today's generation but on future generations, and how important it is that we not only work with people who live in the community but actually listen to what they are saying, because they have the first-hand experience and are on the ground. If we do the job right the first time, everyone in Canada would win.

I wonder if the member would like to comment on the importance of working with people.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, there has been some talk lately about devolution, not only in Bill S-6 but also in Bill C-15. We talked about the devolution of powers to communities. In order to truly devolve powers so that it is fundamentally good for the communities, the communities have to be involved and feel that they are part of the process, whether it is government to government or trilaterally, as the member for Labrador pointed out.

Finally, I would like to point out a statement from Mr. Hartland, of whom I spoke earlier and who is with the Yukon Chamber of Mines. He said:

...as an industry organization we would be remiss if we did not articulate a concern from industry that the erosion of intergovernmental relations among parties...over Bill S-6 is creating a level of uncertainty that affects the attractiveness of Yukon as a jurisdiction to invest in.

This particular individual is on the ground. He is in the chamber in Yukon and knows whereof he speaks.

Therefore, as my colleague points out, if we are devolving powers to a group of people, we should probably do it in a manner that suits the people receiving the devolution.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:45 p.m.
See context

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to speak to this legislation. After years of review and consultation with first nations and other northerners, with the legislation proposed in Bill S-6 we can now move forward with improvements to northern regulatory regimes. These improvements will yield long-term benefits for individuals and businesses in Yukon and Nunavut.

I am a strong believer that northerners should benefit from the tremendous natural resources found in their region. Bill S-6 contains critical amendments to northern regulatory regimes that would ensure that northerners benefit from their resources. These amendments would bring both Yukon and Nunavut's regulatory systems in line with that of the Northwest Territories and the rest of Canada. This would ensure that the territories remained a competitive and attractive place to work, live, and invest for generations to come and that northern families had opportunities to grow and prosper.

I want to focus on several changes in Bill S-6 that would modernize the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, called YESAA for short, which would enable us to make progress on both fronts.

The goal of the proposed legislation is to consider the potential effects that proposed development could have on Yukon's environment, people, communities, and economy.

The Honourable Darrell Pasloski, Premier of Yukon, said:

...it is becoming increasingly clear that changes to this legislation before you today are essential in order for Yukon to remain a competitive place to do business.

This work is overseen by the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board, whose mission is to protect the environmental and social integrity of Yukon while fostering responsible development in the territory, responsible development that reflects the values of Yukoners and respects the contributions of first nations.

I would like to focus my remarks today on one portion of the bill. It is the provision that would allow the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to issue policy direction to the YESAA board.

The proposed legislation would enable the minister, following consultation with the board, to provide binding policy direction with respect to the exercise or performance of its powers, duties, or functions. This has raised concerns in some quarters that it would give the federal government authority to impose its own policies on projects on first nation settlement land. I can assure members that this is not the intention of the amendment nor the way it has been used in practice. In reality, policy directions have been used to add clarity and to ensure that all parties are on the same page with respect to existing laws.

The reason the change is being proposed is to ensure a common understanding between the Government of Canada and the board. For example, the minister could use policy direction to communicate expectations regarding the use of new technologies to mitigate environmental impacts or expectations regarding roles and responsibilities related to aboriginal consultation. This clarification would reduce uncertainty and delays in environmental assessment decision-making.

In recognition of the board's independence, there would be strict limits on the minister's ability to provide policy direction. To be precise, policy direction would have to be consistent with YESAA and with the Umbrella Final Agreement. In fact, YESAA states that first nations' final agreements will prevail in the event of an inconsistency or conflict. Furthermore, policy direction could not interfere with active or completed reviews, again because the board operates at arm's length from government.

To be clear, policy direction could not change the environmental assessment process itself. In fact, Bill S-6 explicitly states that policy directions do not apply to project proposals that have already been submitted to the board.

It is also important to note that the ability to issue policy direction is not without precedent. In fact, the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development already holds the ability to issue policy direction to the Mackenzie Valley Land and Water Board in the Northwest Territories. With respect to this board, policy direction has only ever been used four times, and each time it was to ensure that the board respected and upheld interim agreements the Government of Canada held with aboriginal groups.

In short, policy direction has only been used to provide additional protection for aboriginals.

Clearly, this is an important amendment to Bill S-6. The ability to ensure a common understanding by the government and the YESAA board, particularly with respect to aboriginal rights, is essential. Unfortunately, the opposition would remove this power from the bill.

This government understands the importance of protecting aboriginal rights, which is why I strongly oppose Motion No. 10, and I would encourage the rest of the House to join me in rejecting it.

A second, related feature of this proposed legislation I want to comment on is the delegation of federal powers to the Government of Yukon. The Umbrella Final Agreement defines government as:

Canada or the Yukon, or both, depending upon which government or governments have responsibility, from time to time, for the matter in question.

The delegation of federal powers to the Government of Yukon is consistent with the final agreements and with the governance regime in Yukon post-devolution. In fact, section 2.11.8 of the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement states:

Government may determine, from time to time, how and by whom any power or authority of Government or a Minister set out in a Settlement Agreement...shall be exercised.

Moreover, the principle behind this delegation, that decisions about northern governance are best made in the north, is consistent with our government's northern strategy. In fact, just last year, our government brought into force Bill C-15, which devolved all responsibility for lands and resources out of Ottawa and back to the territorial governments.

This, in short, is why I believe that the ability to delegate authority to the Government of Yukon is an integral component of Bill S-6 and why I am so disappointed to see the Green Party oppose this clause. I strongly oppose the passage of that motion, and I hope that all members of the House join me in voting against it.

The opposition actually supported that initiative when it was before the House, but now they are opposing the very same principle when implemented in the Yukon.

I remind my hon. colleagues that the amendments to YESAA proposed in Bill S-6 address agreed upon recommendations from the five-year review or have been directly requested by the Government of Yukon so that the act can better serve all residents of Yukon, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike. As well, the proposed amendments incorporate suggestions made during the various rounds of review and consultation.

I also want to underline that all parties have improved the legislation before us during the years of consultation and I want to reinforce that the legislation in no way compromises the integrity of YESAA or conflicts with the provisions or nature of the Umbrella Final Agreement.

For these reasons, government members are confident that Bill S-6, including the carefully constructed amendments to introduce policy direction and delegation in YESAA, fully considers the needs and interests of all northerners.

I strongly believe that the ability of the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development to issue policy direction to YESAB and to delegate authority to the Government of Yukon is an essential portion of this bill. Unfortunately, the opposition would like to see both clauses removed. I am asking all hon. colleagues to join me in defeating the motions and moving Bill S-6 forward as it stands.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

David Wilks Conservative Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Red Deer for his speech, for everything he is doing on aboriginal affairs, and for how he is moving this file forward.

I wonder if the member could explain to the House how this will improve economic development in Yukon as this bill moves through the House.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity a number of years ago, when I was first on the aboriginal affairs and northern development committee, to go to the north. We were in Iqaluit, Yellowknife, and Whitehorse. I had a chance to speak to different groups and different organizations.

The study was on barriers to development in the north. While we were there, this was one of the key, important features people were talking about. They said to give them that opportunity. They said that they had great entrepreneurs there and did not want to be held back. They wanted to be able to have the same advantages as the people south of 60. It was so important for them to be able to do that to help their families.

When we were talking to folks about what these barriers were, these were some of the key components that were being brought forward.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 12:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, we recognize the importance of economic development. I have made reference to that in previous questions. It is something we want to see. However, we also recognize the important role the community itself plays.

Can the member provide some thoughts on the importance of trying to build consensus and whether he genuinely believes that consensus was achieved, given the amount of resistance coming from the community, from what I understand, at the ground level and the many stakeholders being somewhat critical? The aboriginal people and other communities have been very vocal about a number of concerns in regard to the legislation. To what degree does the member believe that the government was able to achieve an actual consensus?

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, of course, as the member knows, the consultations were all consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement, so all of the discussions were taking place within that framework.

I remember earlier that the parliamentary secretary was speaking of the $100,000 that was there to help the consultations take place. Critical to this, as well, is recognizing that the Government of Canada, as far as policy directives are concerned, has been in support of our aboriginal groups in the north. That is a critical component. Sometimes we hear that we are giving this opportunity for other things and for negative things to occur, because it is easier to talk that way. However, when we look at the practicality and the actual things the government has been doing with the northerners, it has been to protect. Whether it has been environmental issues or aboriginal wishes and concerns to help their communities, there has been great support from our government.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure and a certain amount of emotion that I speak to Bill S-6. My heart has a soft spot for Yukon and its people.

In 1976, I first went to Yukon to undertake a study on the feasibility of expanding youth hostels. For those of us who remember the late 1970s, it was a time of youth migration across this great country. My task was to see if we could set up a network of centres or hostels to accommodate these young people. That was my first opportunity to visit this magnificent area of Canada. I went for a few months and stayed for five years, perhaps the happiest and most rewarding of my life.

My next job involved working with the Yukon recreation branch, which at that time came under the Department of Education. The minister at the time, a current senator for Yukon, was Senator Dan Lang. I fondly remember spending time in his office trying to get support for various initiatives that our branch was working on. Now we see each other occasionally on flights to and from Ottawa. However, unfortunately we do not agree on Bill S-6.

One of the initiatives that I had the pleasure of working on, an idea that came from the director of recreation at that time, Barry Robb, was that of implementing a network of territory-wide recreation and advisory boards that would be all inclusive. We tried and were successful in involving all communities, with first nation participation as equals, helping to break down some of the barriers that existed at that time.

What is puzzling is that this type of consultation process has apparently been lacking in regard to the bill before us. As I read my notes, I find it very troubling that the Conservative government is once again attempting to ram its ideologically driven agenda through without taking into account the needs of all citizens of Yukon.

Yukon is a majestic area with an extraordinary landscape, wide open spaces unequalled anywhere in the world, and with a dynamic proud people. While there, I spent many hours visiting various communities, from Dawson City to Watson Lake. I even had the pleasure of flying into Old Crow in the Arctic Circle. At that time, we had functioning mines in Elsa and Faro. I even spent a few months working as recreation direction in Elsa.

Bill S-6 would unilaterally rework Yukon's environmental and socio-economic evaluation system, a system which is a product of the Umbrella Final Agreement, which settled most of the first nations land claims in the territory. The Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act, YESAA, is a made-in-Yukon solution to the unique environmental and social circumstances of the territory.

It is clear to see that the changes proposed in Bill S-6 are being driven by what I would call the corporate agenda of southern resource development companies. The bill would dismantle the environmental and socio-economic assessment process developed in Yukon, by Yukoners for Yukon.

In my opinion, it is part of the Conservative ideologically driven agenda to systematically weaken environmental protection legislation, with no public consultation, little or no parliamentary security, and often being buried in omnibus budget legislation. Some examples of weakened environmental laws include the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, Fisheries Act, navigable waters protection act, and Mackenzie Valley Resource Management Act.

It is interesting to note that four former fisheries ministers, three of them Conservative, have been highly critical of the gutting of the Fisheries Act by the current Conservative government. I would like to recognize one of these individuals, the hon. Tom Siddon, who continues to serve his constituents as a director with the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

As I mentioned earlier, there was incomplete consultation with Yukon first nations before these amendments were made. I find it hard to believe that there was no public process while developing these amendments. At the same time, non-Yukon stakeholders, including the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, Mining Association of Canada, Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, and the Canadian Energy Pipeline Association were allowed input.

It appears as if the Yukon government, with support from the Conservative MP and senator, pushed this deal through in spite of considerable opposition to the changes from Yukoners and the Council of Yukon First Nations. In other words, these amendments favour the Yukon government over the Yukon first nations, the other partner in the YESAA process.

There should not be this kind of division. What is more, the Council of Yukon First Nations has threatened legal action should the bill become law. Ironically, instead of favouring development, Bill S-6 could wind up slowing it down.

Let us listen to what Allison Rippin Armstrong, vice-president of lands and environment at Kaminak Gold Corporation has to say:

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

Specifically, the YESAA five-year review resulted in a number of recommendations, most of which were supported by the parties involved in the review, including Yukon first nations. We understand that some of the proposed amendments do not accurately reflect comments and recommendations raised during the five-year review, and as a result, instead of celebrating a historic alignment between the governments and the Yukon first nations on most of the proposed amendments to YESAA, Yukon first nations have expressed a common position that they intend to take the federal government to court, if Bill S-6 is passed as proposed.

Kaminak is very concerned about this development, because court cases create assessments and regulatory uncertainty in addition to extraordinary delay, all of which erodes investor confidence.

In these difficult economic times, why would any government even consider implementing measures that would encourage economic uncertainty? It would seem to me that a stable environment supported by first nations should be a necessary prerequisite to any shift in policy.

Former Yukon MP Larry Bagnell spoke in the House to the original bill creating YESAA on October 21, 2002. He said:

Much of that time has been spent in consultation with stakeholder groups and, as a result, we have a much better bill and much better process than might otherwise be the case. First nations in particular will have a more meaningful role in assessments in Yukon.

It is safe to say that virtually everyone in Yukon had an opportunity to comment on the bill and many did.

Larry talked about how the department released drafts of the legislation in 1998 and 2001 for public review and undertook two separate tours to meet with first nations and other residents to review and discuss these drafts. He went on to say:

This took time, but it was time well spent. Those in Yukon who participated believe the process was inclusive, transparent and worthwhile.

Why is it that a former Liberal majority government made an effort to adequately consult prior to introducing legislation where our current conservative regime has chosen to disregard the democratic process?

Speaking of the lack of respect for democracy, one only has to look at how the Canadian Wheat Board was gutted in spite of support for the single desk by over 60% of farmers, or the complete rejection of over 20 amendments proposed by the NDP and Liberals to strengthen the food safety act, Bill S-11, or most recently the way that Bill C-51 was rammed through, in spite of the fact that knowledgeable witnesses spoke out against these draconian measures. Clearly Canadians are asking for a change. This will happen in October, but sorry for that digression.

Ruth Massie, Grand Chief, Council of Yukon First Nations said this when appearing before the Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources:

Pursuant to the UFA, the CYFN, including Yukon First Nations, Canada and Yukon undertook a comprehensive review of YESAA. Initially, CYFN, Yukon First Nations, Canada and Yukon worked collaboratively to prepare the interim YESAA review report. In the end, Canada unilaterally finalized the report and systematically rejected the input from the CYFN and Yukon First Nations.

The proposed amendments in front of the Senate today were not discussed in the five-year review process with Canada and the Yukon government.

Mary Jane Jim, councillor, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations, said:

...it is our view that YESAA has been operating effectively and efficiently since its enactment in 2003. The federal government now works to unilaterally make additional amendments to the YESAA. We did not request these amendments, nor do we support them. These amendments are not necessary.

Let me close by saying that I believe this is not a good precedent in these difficult times. I urge all members of the House to reject this flawed piece of legislation.

Motions in AmendmentYukon and Nunavut Regulatory Improvement ActGovernment Orders

May 25th, 2015 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon B.C.

Conservative

Mark Strahl ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I think we can all agree in this House about the beauty of the Yukon and the potential opportunity for the people who live there, and for economic development, if it is done the right way. What we are proposing in the bill are ways to make that happen.

One of the issues that the member mentioned was policy direction, and I want to hone in on that specifically. The Minister of Aboriginal Affairs has the right to set binding policy direction in the Northwest Territories. This minister has never used it; previous ministers have used it to protect aboriginal rights.

When we were in Yukon, the member for Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing said protecting aboriginal rights, though the minister did it through binding policy direction, was actually “paternalistic”.

Does the member agree that protecting aboriginal rights is paternalistic? Why does he want to take away the minister's ability to protect aboriginal rights by supporting Motion No. 10, which would take away policy direction?