The Constitutional Status of Yukon — A Normative Analysis
Because Yukon is established by an Act of Parliament, is it possible Ottawa could abolish it or alter the government’s powers at will? The question of the legal position of Yukon in the federation is not straightforward. This article considers three pillars supporting the normative constitutional status of Yukon. The first is a review of functionality, which suggests that today Yukon operates essentially like a province. The second pillar is permanence. It is suggested that the structure of public government, the democratic rights of Yukoners, and the rights of Yukon First Nations, together operate to limit Parliament’s power to unilaterally change the Yukon Act without the agreement of the people of Yukon. The final pillar is sovereignty. As a result of devolution and responsible government, it is suggested that the Yukon government’s sphere of power is now protected from unilateral interference by Parliament. While there has been no constitutional amendment, these pillars support an interpretation that the “constitution-in-practice” has been altered. At the same time, the majority of Yukon First Nations have constitutionally protected rights and are now self-governing. This article concludes that the traditional binary view of the federation comprised of provinces and the federal government needs to be reimagined. The normative constitutional framework must embrace a broader vision that accommodates asymmetries in status and authority, acknowledges a permanent and sovereign place for Yukon and the other territories, and makes space for participation by Indigenous Peoples in governance of the federation.
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