On December 1, 2017, the Supreme Court of Canada (CCS), in the Nacho Nyak Dun v. Yukon First Nations (Nacho Nyak Dun), overturned a decision by the Yukon government to open the Peel Water Basin for development and substantially modify the Peel Watershed Planning Commission`s final recommended plan (plan). CSC decided that the final agreements with a number of First Nations that allowed the Commission and provided for the land use process did not allow Yukon to moderate the Commission`s plan so drastically. Land rights are established in areas of Canada where Aboriginal land rights have not been governed by previous contracts or other legal means. In the Yukon, a number of modern contracts of the future, also known as final agreements, have been negotiated to settle these land rights. Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow`s path to final umbrella agreement and the resulting modern contracts and self-management agreements has been long and unexplored. While there have been many challenges along the way, the agreements embody the common path we have forged together, fairer and more inclusive for all. They put power back in the hands of 11 Yukon First Nations to govern their communities and gave all Yukoners a greater voice in land management by changing the way business is done in the Yukon, with First Nations at the table, shaping cross-sector policies and economic development for the benefit of Yukon First Nations all Yukoners and Canadians , have stimulated. Peel Basin, rich in non-renewable natural resources, is part of the traditional territory of a number of Yukon First Nations. The Commission is a politically neutral body that was established in 2004 with appointments from both Yukon and First Nations. Their mandate is to develop a land use plan for the region in accordance with final agreements with First Nations in the region.
The Commission was responsible for the development of a project and a recommended final plan, with a regulatory consultation procedure with First Nations. Yukon is authorized to approve, reject or amend the Commission`s recommendations. “25 years ago, Canada, Yukon and the Yukon Indian Council (now the Yukon Council of First Nations) signed the framework agreement. This document provided the model for the 11 modern contracts we have today in the Yukon and also provided for the negotiation of self-management agreements. The first four final self-management agreements were signed in 1993 by Champagne and Ashihik First Nations, Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation, Teslin Tlingit Council and Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. CSC concluded that the Yukon government could not unilaterally change the plan; it was only able to make minor or partial changes based on previous circumstances in response to developments. By circumventing the regional land use process, Yukon`s decision resulted in First Nations not exercising their rights under the final agreements. CSC found that Yukon`s conduct did not maintain the honour of the Crown.