The Council for Yukon Indians (CYI) Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) provides a template with which each of the Yukon's 14 First Nations is to negotiate its own final (land claim) and self-government agreements. Each First Nation's final agreement includes all provisions of the UFA, plus specific provisions that indicate how particular sections apply to that First Nation. The UFA is not a legally binding document. However, since the entire contents of the UFA are contained in First Nations final agreements, the content of the UFA is legally protected.
The 292-page UFA is comprehensive, its 28 chapters covering all issues to be included in Yukon First Nation (YFN) final agreements. These issues include (but are not limited to) subjects for self-government negotiations, the amount of land to be retained by YFNs, financial compensation, tenure and management of settlement lands, and economic development measures. The UFA also creates boards, commissions and committees to provide for the comanagement of, among other subjects, Yukon's fish and wildlife, water, renewable natural resources, and heritage resources. The UFA also includes appendices that apportion the overall compensation and land amounts to individual YFNs.
The UFA is the product of 20 years of claims negotiations. On February 14, 1973 chiefs representing the Yukon Native Brotherhood (YNB) presented their statement of claim Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow to Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Later that year the Government of Canada accepted the YNB claim for negotiation.
This was not the first time YFNs tried to negotiate a treaty with the Government of Canada. In 1902, Chief Jim Boss of the First Nations in the Lake Laberge area asked the federal government for a settlement. His request was rejected.
Before negotiations could begin with YFNs, Canada and the Yukon had to address the role the Yukon Government would play in the claims negotiations. Legally, the territorial government had no role to play, since (unlike the situation in Canada's provinces) the federal government controlled Crown Land in the
Yukon and could therefore conclude a land claim bilaterally with YFNs. Politically, however, this would be difficult given the views of nonaboriginal Yukoners and the territorial governments desire to expand its resources and jurisdiction. An added difficulty was that the territorial government, at the time, adamantly opposed YNB's demands.
Territorial opposition was based on the very purpose of claims negotiations. To put it simply, in the 1970s Canadian governments saw claims negotiations as glorified real estate transactions. Aboriginal groups would receive money and small amounts of land in exchange for title to their traditional territories. As Together Today for Our Children Tomorrow made clear, YFNs had a very different view. To them the purpose of negotiations was to establish an ongoing set of political, economic, and social relations that would enhance the status and well-being of aboriginal people in the Yukon. Although negotiations have been long and difficult, and YFNs have not had all their demands satisfied, the YFN vision has prevailed.
Through the early years of negotiation, the Yukon was represented by a single member on the federal team. A 1979 memorandum of understanding among the CYI, Canada, and the Yukon established the territorial government as a separate party to the negotiations, though not a signatory to any agreements. In 1985, a new memorandum of understanding established the Yukon as a signatory.
The negotiations that began in 1973 lead to a series of agreements in principle (AIPs) concluded in the early 1980s. YFN ratification votes showed a low level of support for the AIPs. Some YFNs refused to vote on them. In August 1984, the CYI General Assembly called for major changes to the AIPs. These changes included the affirmation, not extinguishment, of aboriginal rights, the recognition and protection of subsistence hunting rights, more land, and the strengthening of YFN government. The federal government resisted these changes and on December 20, 1984 David Crombie, Canada's Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs, declared the AIPs rejected.
Efforts to revive the negotiations process began almost immediately. Meanwhile the federal government commissioned a special task force to study its comprehensive claims policy. The task force recommended changes (particularly with regard to the extinguishment of aboriginal rights) some of which were incorporated into a new federal comprehensive policy in 1987. The Yukon negotiations were subsequently revived. This led to a new agreement in principle in May 1989 and the UFA, which the CYI ratified in December 1991.
However before the UFA could be signed it was agreed that four YFNs (the Vuntut Gwich'in,
Champagne-Aishihik, Nacho Nyak Dun, and the Teslin Tlingit Council) would negotiate final and self-government agreements to show what the concluded agreements would look like. Once these agreements were negotiated and ratified, they and the UFA were signed at a public ceremony in Whitehorse on May 29, 1993. The Canadian Parliament passed the enabling legislation for the final and self-government agreements in 1994. Subsequently, the first four sets of final and self-agreements became effective on February 14, 1995. Since then three other YFNs (Selkirk, Little Salmon-Carmacks, and Tr'ondek Hwech'in) have negotiated, signed and ratified final and self-government agreements.
As modern treaties, YFN final agreements are protected by section 35 of Canada's Constitution Act, 1982. This includes the self-government chapter (Chapter 24) that obligates Canada and the Yukon to negotiate a self-government agreement with any YFN that requests such negotiations. However, self-government agreements negotiated pursuant to Chapter 24 are not constitutionally protected. This difference occurred because in 1993 federal government policy was that the right to self-government was not a treaty right protected by section 35. As such YFNs must negotiate self-government agreements separate from their final agreements. YFNs have always disagreed with this policy and the UFA's self-government chapter allows constitutional protection to be extended to self-government agreements "as provided in future constitutional amendments." In August 1995, the Government of Canada changed its policy on the constitutional protection of self-government. Since then negotiations have taken place to see how the new policy might be applied to Yukon agreements.
See also Council for Yukon First Nations (CYFN); Land Claims; Self-Government
Council for Yukon Indians, Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow, Brampton, Ontario, Charters, 1977 (Available on the CYFN website: http://www.cyfn.ca/) Council of Yukon First Nations, Government of Yukon, Understanding the Yukon Umbrella Final Agreement: A Land Claim Settlement Information Package (4th edition), Whitehorse: The Council of Yukon First Nations and the Government of Yukon, 1997 (Available on the CYFN website: http://www.cyfn.ca/.) Government of Canada, Living Treaties, Lasting Agreements, Report of the Task Force to Review Comprehensive Claims Policy, Ottawa: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, 1985
-Council for Yukon Indians Comprehensive Land Claims
Agreement in Principle, Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1989
-The Council for Yukon Indians, The Government of
Yukon, The Council for Yukon Indians Umbrella Final Agreement, Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1993 (Available on the CYFN website: http://www.cyfn.ca/. Other land claims and self-government agreements are also available at this site)
Indian and Northern Affairs Canada, Comprehensive Land Claims Policy, Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1987
McCormick, Floyd, Inherent Aboriginal Rights in Theory and Practice: The Council for Yukon Indians Umbrella Final Agreement, Ph.D. dissertation, Edmonton: University of Alberta, 1997
———, "Still Frontier, Always Homeland: Yukon Politics in the Year 2000." In The Provincial State in Canada: Politics in the Provinces and Territories, edited by Keith Brownsey & Michael Howlett, Peterborough, Ontario: Broadview, 2001
Yukon, Legislative Assembly (28th Legislature), Special Committee on Land Claims and Self-Government Report, Whitehorse: Yukon Legislative Assembly, 1993
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