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Doing Business in Canada's North: The Yukon, the Northwest Territories, and Nunavut

David H. Searle, John M. Olynyk, Kathryn Vennard, Proceedings of 46th Annual Rocky Mountain Mineral Law Institute (2000)

Many of the readers of this paper will no doubt have been involved in mineral development projects in one of Canada's ten provinces, and will therefore be familiar with the general legal framework that applies in those provinces. The purpose of this paper is to highlight some of the key challenges that you will encounter if you are involved in development of a mine in one of Canada's three territoriesthe Yukon, the Northwest Territories (NWT), and Nunavut. We start with a brief history of the territories to explain their unique constitutional status in Canada.

One of the first things to note is that we refer to these jurisdictions as territories, and not as provinces. The distinction is historical. At the time of Canada's creation in 1867, all of Canada outside of the original four provinces [4-4] was referred to as the Northwest Territories. Lands and resources in the Northwest Territories were owned by the federal government, and were subject to federal legislative jurisdiction.1 Over time, the prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba were carved out of the Northwest Territories and established as provinces with legislative powers under the Constitution Act, 1867.

North of 60, the federal government created the Yukon Territory in 1898. The remainder of the lands north of 60 were part of the Northwest Territories until the recent creation of