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Well, Danny done gone and said it.

He stood up in an interview with the CBC on July 28 and said: “We did not become the country we are today in spite of our political institutions. We became the country we are today because of our political institutions.”

Oh, forgive me, you probably don’t know Danny. Most Yukoners do, however. That is because Dan Lang is the senator for the Yukon, appointed by Harper back in 2008.

Yukoners call him Danny. Some do so not out of familiarity, but out of belittlement. 

Along with the other 17 senators appointed in that year, he agreed to an eight-year term.

Let’s see, 2008 plus eight years brings us to 2016. But to everyone’s surprise that eight-year term is but voluntary.

Danny now says he will make a decision on stepping down that is “in the best interests of the Yukon.”

And who determines the Yukon’s best senatorial interests? Why, Danny, of course. If the unelected Yukon senator with incredible job security cannot determine what’s good for the Yukon, no one can. At least that seems to be the attitude on display.

It looks like he’s setting himself up as senator for life, or at least until retirement at age 75 — which is another eight long years away. 

The Senate isn’t too popular in the Yukon. This is mostly due to a piece of legislation known as Bill S-6. It changed the environmental assessment process in the Yukon.

Some of the changes were not welcomed by First Nations and the environmental community. 

The environmental assessment process in the Yukon is a result of the modern-day Umbrella Final Agreement and 11 treaties signed between Yukon First Nations and the federal government.  

Bill S-6 is seen as going against the spirit and intent of the Umbrella Final Agrement. The changes are seen as an affront to Yukon First Nations and all Yukoners. 

Also of major concern is that the changes could lead to resource extraction projects being rushed through environmental assessment reviews.

The odd thing was that this federal bill was introduced in the Senate, not the Commons, and Danny introduced it.

One would think that a bill that makes projects that will negatively impact the land (upon which so many Yukoners depend and respect) potentially easier to go through the environmental assessment process would start in the Commons. This could have made it more accountable, although the Yukon’s MP (Conservative Ryan Leef) did bring a Commons Committee to the Yukon to hear concerns. 

Despite this Committee hearing, many Yukon First Nations and other Yukoners speak out against aspects of Bill S-6, and because of the Conservative majority in the Commons, Bill S-6 was easily approved and has obtained Royal Assent.

That means it is now the law of the land. Or the Yukon. And all thanks to that Senate Bill S-6.

So the Yukon finds itself being shaped by a political institution whose appointed member decides for himself what is in the best interest of the territory. 

Most Yukoners like to think of themselves as part of a democratic Canadian federation in spite of our political institutions.

Maybe, just maybe, all Yukoners should have a say in determining what is in our best interests. 

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Lewis Rifkind

Lewis Rifkind

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist. His work centers around Yukon recycling, energy and mining issues. When he is not winter camping or summer hiking, he collects stamps...