At first glance, the Yukon territory seems to operate the same way as a province, but there are differences. The Government of Yukon has many responbilities and works together with other governments, including First Nation governments and municipalities.
Representation in the Parliament of Canada
In 1902, Yukoners gained the right to elect one Member of Parliament to the House of Commons. In 1975, the Parliament of Canada amended the British North America Act to allow for the appointment of one Senator from Yukon. The Senator and Member of Parliament hold the Government of Canada to account, discussing national issues and representing Yukon residents’ views.
Government and Legislative Assembly
At the peak of the Klondike Gold Rush in 1898, the Parliament of Canada passed the Yukon Territory Act and established Yukon as a separate geographical and political entity within the Canadian federation. This act established a Yukon government made up of a Commissioner and a territorial council of four, all appointed by the Government of Canada. By 1909 the territorial council was an entirely elected body of 10.
From 1898 to 1979 the Commissioner had the powers of both the head of government (Premier) and the head of state (Lieutenant Governor). The Commissioner is no longer the head of government, but is similar to a provincial lieutenant governor, granting assent to bills passed by the legislative assembly and representing Yukon at protocol-related functions inside and outside of the territory.
Over the years the Government of Yukon has grown as the Government of Canada transferred various governmental powers through a process called devolution. Today the Government of Yukon has many, but not all, the powers of a province. The number of members elected to the Yukon Legislative Assembly has also grown over the years and its procedures have become more sophisticated.
Devolution is the process of transferring authority from one government to the other. Over the years, there have been a number of responsibilities devolved to the Government of Yukon, from the Government of Canada, the most recent being the transfer of land and resources.
The governments of Canada and Yukon spent several years negotiating this transfer and framework for change. In October 2001 the Devolution Transfer Agreement was finalized.
On April 1, 2003 a new Yukon Act came into effect, giving the Government of Yukon direct control over a greater variety of provincialtype programs, responsibilities and powers. These expanded authorities enabled Yukoners to have more say over their economic future and the ability to respond quickly and
effectively to issues as they arose.
The Government of Yukon is now responsible for public lands and resource management over water, forestry and mineral resources.
Yukon First Nations Land Claims and Final Agreements
Yukon is at the forefront of land claim negotiations in Canada. As of 2008, eleven of the 14 Yukon First Nations have finalized their land claims and have Final and Self-Government Agreements in effect.
There were no historic treaties in effect between government and Yukon aboriginal people when Yukon First Nation people presented Together Today For Our Children Tomorrow to Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau in 1973 and initiated modern Yukon land claims negotiations.
Initially, these negotiations were a two-party process between Yukon First Nations and the Government of Canada, but the range of issues being addressed were such that the Government of Yukon had to become a third party to the process in order to ensure a comprehensive agreement.
The Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA) is a common template that was developed as a basis for negotiating Final Agreements with individual First Nations. The UFA was created in 1991 and a final version was signed in 1993 by the governments of Canada and Yukon, and Yukon First Nations as represented by the Council for Yukon Indians (now named Council of Yukon First Nations). Each First Nation Final Agreement contains UFA provisions along with provisions unique to that First Nation.
11 Yukon First Nations have Final and Self-Government Agreements
Three First Nations have not settled land claims and remain Indian Bands under the federal Indian Act: Liard First Nation, Ross River Dena Council and White River First Nation.