Feds, Yukon and First Nations Sign “Historic Agreement”

Posted 22 February 2011 by in NNL Headline News

celebrationTHUNDER BAY – The federal government and First Nations have signed what is being called a historic agreement. The agreement will recognize the Teslin Tlingit Council’s jurisdiction to administer justice was signed by the Honourable John Duncan, Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians, Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie, and Teslin Tlingit Council (TTC) Chief Executive Officer Peter Johnston at a ceremony today in Teslin.

The main features of the agreement include the power to impose penalties for violations of the Teslin Tlingit Council legislation; appoint individuals to enforce and prosecute violations of these laws; and establish a Peacemaker Court to adjudicate violations and to reconsider decisions made by the Teslin Tlingit Council’s government officials or administrative bodies.

Under its self-government agreement, the Teslin Tlingit Council will be able to enact laws in the areas of jurisdiction outlined in the self-government agreement. Examples include: adoption; inheritance; wills; solemnization of marriage; management, control and protection of Settlement Land; rights and interests on Settlement Land; natural resources; gathering, hunting, trapping or fishing; protection of fish, wildlife and habitat; prevention of overcrowding of residences/buildings; and planning, zoning and development. The TTC Administration of Justice Agreement ensures that the TTC, through its Peacemaker Court, can resolve or adjudicate disputes or violations under these laws.

“This momentous Administration of Justice Agreement demonstrates our Government’s commitment to working with willing partners to bring lasting change to benefit First Nations,” said Minister Duncan. “We look forward to working with the Government of Yukon and other Yukon First Nations on similar agreements.”

The Teslin Tlingit Council Administration of Justice Agreement will be the first such agreement to come into effect in Yukon. This agreement will apply to all TTC citizens and non-TTC citizens residing on or visiting TTC settlement land.

“I am proud of the efforts made by so many people to get us to this place today,” Premier Fentie said. “This historic agreement guarantees the Tlingit people an opportunity to provide their own vision for how justice will be administered on their lands and for their people.”

“The Teslin Tlingit Council has worked relentlessly to conclude this agreement, the foundation of which is in the Teslin Tlingit Council constitution,” said Chief Executive Officer Johnston. “The Administration of Justice Agreement ensures that the Teslin Tlingit Council now has the legislative, executive and judicial powers over its self-government jurisdictions, enabling us to further enshrine the Tlingit way of life into everything we do. We look forward to working with Canada, Yukon and our Citizens to continue advancing our social, economic and constitutional visions.”

Here is the transcript that Minister John Duncan delivered on Monday:

Elders, Chief Executive Officer Johnston, Leaders of the Frog, Wolf, Raven Children, Beaver and Eagle Clans, Premier Fentie.

Thank you for the kind invitation to join you in celebrating this momentous occasion. I know my cabinet colleagues, Minister Nicholson and Minister Toews wanted to be here as well today, and they have asked me to send their warmest regards and their congratulations to you all for this great achievement.

I would like to begin by acknowledging you, the Teslin Tlingit people, for being such gracious hosts to all of us who have gathered here on your traditional territory to sign this historic agreement.

This milestone has been a long time in the making. This is a unique and complex agreement that involved careful review and consideration by all partners. And it is because of the cooperation, diligence and patience of everyone that we are here today.

For this, I want to express my sincere appreciation to all of the parties who have worked tirelessly to make both this agreement and today’s event possible. Thanks to your efforts, this agreement we are signing today will formally recognize the Teslin Tlingit Council’s jurisdiction to administer, enforce and adjudicate its own laws.

This landmark Agreement is another clear example of this government’s ongoing commitment to work collaboratively with First Nations and territorial governments to make real and tangible progress. It also underlines the importance of working in partnership to achieve lasting improvements to the lives of First Nations people in the North.

This Agreement recognizes the Teslin Tlingit Council’s authority to administer justice in a manner that is culturally relevant to your people, lands, resources and traditions. This Agreement is the very first of its kind in Yukon. And represents a significant step in the implementation of First Nation self-government in Yukon and indeed, nationally. I would like to commend you on this, you should be very proud of this achievement.

Yukon First Nation people have been, and continue to be, leaders in the successful implementation of self-government agreements.

Today, we see that the majority of Yukon First Nations have brought into effect self-government agreements—agreements that recognize First Nation authority over the management of lands, wildlife and resources; agreements that facilitate economic opportunities, prosperity and self-sufficiency; and agreements that acknowledge the importance of traditional practices and culture.

The signing of this Administration of Justice Agreement signals both the conclusion of many years of negotiations and the beginning of an exciting new chapter in the history of the Teslin Tlingit people. Once again, let me extend to you all my congratulations and my sincere hope for a healthy and prosperous future for the Teslin Tlingit.

Thank you.