Canada: Yukon and Northwest Territories First Nations Win Big in Yukon Supreme Court


Dene Nation Press Release

Date of publication: 
4 December 2014

Yellowknife – The Yukon Supreme Court overturned the Yukon Government Peel Watershed’s final recommended land use plan of January 2014, saying that it does not respect the final agreements with the First Nations for the 67,000 square kilometres of wilderness in northern Yukon. “In yesterday’s historic decision, the Yukon Supreme Court supported the First Nations governmental rights and interests. The First Nations in Yukon and the Northwest Territories see it as a great achievement,” said Dene National Chief Bill Erasmus.

“This is precedent-setting because it supports, at law, that the final land claim agreements supercede territorial legislation. These agreements were negotiated over many years between the parties and agreed upon. They are part of the Canadian Constitution and therefore protection is provided and prohibits others to override the authority of First Nation governments,” said Erasmus. He added that in this case it includes the Yukon and NWT First Nations. The Gwich’in Tribal Council were intervenors as territorial land owners and active participants in the Peel River Watershed. “We are very pleased that the Gwich’in Agreement, which is subject to Treaty No. 11, is accepted by the Supreme Court of the Yukon and thereby supports the enactment of their final agreement.”

The Yukon Supreme Court is ordering the Yukon Government to return to discussions with the First Nations to fulfill the final recommended land use plan for the Peel Watershed which drains into the Northwest Territories and on to the circumpolar world.

Erasmus said, “Similarly, today the Tli Cho Government is in the Supreme Court of the Northwest Territories in Yellowknife up against the federal and territorial governments who are trying to do away with the Wek’eezhii Land and Water Board which is part of the Land Claims and Self-Government Agreement Among the Tli Cho and The Government of the Northwest Territories and the Government of Canada.” He said that going to court is very frustrating because agreements are there to avoid court action. However, Canada is undermining its own constitution, laws, policies and legal obligations to First Nations, which the former federal Liberal government agreed to under the leadership of Prime Minister Jean Chretien. We feel that Canadian taxpayers dollars are being wasted by fighting First Nation governments who have sovereign authority as outlined by the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC). Justice Binnie of the SCC on Aboriginal rights of self-government stated that: “ What is significant is that the Royal Commission itself sees Aboriginal Peoples as full participants with non-aboriginal peoples in a shared Canadian sovereignty. Aboriginal Peoples do not stand in the opposition to, nor are they subjugated by, Canadian sovereignty. They are a part of it.”

This adds to the other approximately 300 cases that the First Nations in Canada have won in the last 40 years to make clear the doctrine of Treaty and Aboriginal Rights.


For more information, contact:

Phil Mercredi
Dene Nation
Tel: (867) 873-4081
Email: pmercredi [at] denenation [dot] com

“Upholding and Protecting the Rights and Interests of the Dene Nation”

Dene National / Assembly of First Nations Office (NWT)
5125- 50th Street
P.O. Box 2338
Yellowknife, NT, X1A 2P7
Phone: (867) 873-4081
Fax: (867) 920-2254
Toll Free: 1-866-511-4081