Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for February 23, 2011

First Nation signs landmark justice pact

Teslin Tlingit citizens will soon receive different treatment than other Canadians in the justice system, including being subject to new and future legislation created by the Teslin Tlingit Council.

By Jason Unrau on February 23, 2011 at 3:42 pm

Teslin Tlingit citizens will soon receive different treatment than other Canadians in the justice system, including being subject to new and future legislation created by the Teslin Tlingit Council.

As well, non-Teslin Tlingit on the First Nations land would be under the authority of “Tlingit law”, which would even apply to Tlingit citizens living outside the settlement region.

This is the new reality for 774 Teslin Tlingit citizens, most of whom live outside Teslin, after John Duncan, the Minister of Indian Affairs, Premier Dennis Fentie and Teslin Tlingit CEO Peter Johnston inked an agreement Monday to “recognize the Teslin Tlingit Council’s jurisdiction to administer justice.”

Fentie said the new arrangement, born from the First Nation’s 1995 self-government 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.”

While lawmaking powers of the Teslin Tlingit Council won’t include criminal law or matters related to national security, future negotiations could see the Tlingit “peacemaker court” hearing cases involving breaches of federal or territorial law by its citizens.

Already, the Teslin Tlingit Council has established its own Income Tax Act, Wildlife Act, Settlement Land and Resources Act, Goods and Services Tax Act and Residency Grant Act.

Areas of jurisdiction outlined in the First Nation’s self-government agreement would also allow the Teslin Tlingit Council to enact laws regulating adoption, inheritance, wills, solemnization of marriage, planning, zoning and development.

In a statement issued to coincide with Monday’s signing, Johnston said the Teslin Tlingits’ new powers would advance the First Nation’s “social, economic and constitutional visions.”

“(This 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,” Johnston said.

The agreement comes with $252,000 in startup cash, as well as continuing annual operations funding of $395,000 from Ottawa.

Last Friday afternoon, the media were briefed on the Teslin Tlingits’ Administration of Justice Agreement, which will see its adjudication powers rolled out in three phases.

Phase one will include the selection of “peacemakers”, the Teslin Tlingit equivalent of judges appointed by the First Nation’s justice council, and the establishment of a “peacemaker court”.

The Tlingits’ justice council is comprised of five members – one appointed from each of the First Nation’s five clans and the council’s peacemaker appointments would require approval from the the Teslin Tlingits’ annual general assembly.

To avoid any conflict of interest, a roster of peacemakers will be determined by the justice council.

Training for peacemakers is to be provided jointly by Yukon College and the BC Justice Institute, which specializes in conflict resolution and bills itself as “Canada’s leading public safety educator”.

How much training a peacemaker would receive or what qualifications a potential peacemaker needs in order to carry out his or her functions remains unclear.

During phase one, which Teslin Tlingits communications co-ordinator Ian Freeman expects could last four years, the peacemaker court would serve as a dispute-resolution forum, and those appearing before it would do so by choice.

Phase two sees the peacemaker court begin to adjudicate offences of Teslin Tlingit law and phase three – if the First Nation, federal and territorial government reach a separate agreement – would allow the peacemaker court to hear cases involving criminal charges.

According to Duncan, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms will apply to the peacemaker court and decisions there could be appealed to the Yukon’s Supreme Court.

However, there appear to be no safeguards for protecting an individual’s rights, particularly those of women and children, in either the contents of yet-to-be-created Tlingit laws, or their future application.

Chiefs from some of the Yukon’s 10 other self-governing First Nations attending Monday’s signing in Teslin, including Mark Wedge of the Carcross-Tagish, indicated a desire to see similar jurisdiction transferred to their governments.

Such a scenario would create a unique legal patchwork across the territory, and in Whitehorse – home to citizens of several Yukon First Nations – neighbours could be subject to different laws and different mechanisms for adjudication.

CommentsAdd a comment

Laurence Holden

Feb 23, 2011 at 4:43 pm

Congratulations to the Teslin Tlingit FN, leading the way in the Yukon, lets hope others will follow. Looks like this is the end of a lot of hard work.

Jack Frost

Feb 23, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Congratulations? So in other words Canadian law won’t apply to anyone that is of Teslin heritage? Am I reading this correctly? And all First Nations want to do this? What a joke. And it’s funny how this stinks of everything Quebec. They want nothing to do with Canada, but want all of it’s money. Stuff like this continues to separate us all. Who are you to say that you require your own laws based on your skin color?  Hey they make up the laws, I don’t. And it’s funny these First Nations claim self governance when they create nothing, pay no taxes, but continue to get millions of dollars from Ottawa for doing nothing. Pretty nice gig if you ask me.


Feb 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Yes, congratulations to Teslin Tlingit Council for reaching the agreement. 
And to Jack Frost, we pay dearly for what little we succeeded in. 


Feb 25, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Congratulations? I wouldn’t use that word. I see only a disaster coming… Eddi’s Skookum story is still fresh in my mind - all is acceptable, he still is the leader. First Nation governments are very young and they have a lot to learn, so far I do not see any good examples. And why Canadian taxpayers should support this?

Jack Frost, I second everything you’ve said.


Feb 28, 2011 at 7:05 pm

I agree with Jack Frosts points as well. We already have one government we don’t need more.

“We pay dearly for what little we succeeded in” right who’s paying the taxes that go towards FN agreements.

Josey Wales

Feb 28, 2011 at 11:12 pm

@ Jack Frost & Maria….
...Diddo from Josey too.

Whilst currently this doesn’t apply to the criminal code of Canada per say, it does however set us up on a precipice of a very slippery slope if you ask me.

Eddie Skookum…his recent history & his retaining of his position after the elders endorsed his leadership in that self governing “FN”....is a re-definition of shameful. That single act from the elders, completely undermined any interest I had in seeing “self governing FN come to light.

Good for them, I hope it works for them…

I just really have serious issues with this segregation of people based on ethnicity…seems so 50’s and way uncool.

The elitists is what they are to me, as nowhere else in the planet can so few cost so much…and demand so much political considerations due to the special above everybody else stuff we are fed….they are not!

First Nations Initiatives

Mar 1, 2011 at 8:08 pm

First Nations in the Yukon PAY TAXES!!!!

tommy smith

Mar 3, 2011 at 12:08 am

in the first place this is our land stolen by the white settlers. u kick about taxes maybe you should all go back to europe or maybe better yet start paying the natives tax for it is our land.

Laurence Holden

Mar 3, 2011 at 10:06 am

“we already have one government we don’t need more”
The self-governing first nations have been exactly that since they signed their final agreement back in the mid-nineties. This AJA does grant the FN law making powers (that was already agreed upon last decade - get with the times!)
This agreement allows the FN to start enforcing the laws that they pass - kind of a perquisite if your laws are actually going to mean anything at all don’t you think?

“They want nothing to do with Canada, but want all of it’s money”
Really nice little unbiased statement on the issue of FN governance, aboriginal self-determination and arguably one of the central pillars of Canadian history and identity - thanks for the useful summary.

The path for many of these FN is very long indeed, but the general direction has already been set and this is a big step in that direction. The ball is not going to stop rolling so, as a Yukoner, you can either support the process and help it be a positive journey, or you can keep your views, not try to understand and do your little bit to help it be a negative journey and a waste of time, energy and effort – choice is yours.


Mar 3, 2011 at 5:32 pm

im glad this makes you guys MAD.
Now you KNOW HOW WE FELT AS YOU CAME AND TOOK OUR LAND.  i hope our new goverment pisses you off MORE.
So you can feel how we felt for so many years. and this still continues as we try and better our selves in the ENVIORMENT YOU HAVE CREATED.


Mar 3, 2011 at 6:14 pm

@tommy smith: Very Dangerous statement. Think about all the indigenous peoples who have been completely wiped out across the globe by “Europeans” with bad attitudes.
Your attitude is no better and only breeds hatred.
Canada’s hands are definitely not clean when dealing with first nations historically but at least we are one of the only jurisdictions in the world to recognize indigenous rights and culture. This is something we should all be thankful for.
I am of European background and wish my ancestors would have dealt with indigenous peoples in a better way than they did. There’s nothing that can be done to change the past; we can only make a better future. 
Your comments come from someone who dwells on the past and has his back towards the future. You only create resentment, hatred and racism. It’s time to move on.

tommy smith

Mar 4, 2011 at 11:57 pm

at es i guess they didnt have bad attitude. they were fighting for our lands. wouldnt u be a little pissed if some native came to your place and ran u off. im not living in the past. you dont know me. but you sound you need more education on the subject. my back isnt against the future. it is facts that i stated on here that was that. had nothing to do with resentment hatred or racism. in this country yukon no matter if a first nations is doing good there are some whites that just hate that. those are the racist. they cant stand to see first nations do well. they want to see us down rather than up. maybe you should tell them that.

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