Yukon North Of Ordinary

News archive for January 30, 2014

Endless line of Peel supporters address lengthy rally

O Canada played in the background as eight-year-old Kier MacKinnon raised the “Protect The Peel” flag outside the Yukon legislature Wednesday afternoon.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on January 30, 2014 at 4:04 pm


Photo by Whitehorse Star

MUSIC APPEAL – Matthew Lien directs the crowd gathered at the Peel protest Wednesday after- noon while making a recording. He will produce a CD Headwaters Music of the Peel Watershed and include the crowd from this gathering. Note the Protect the Peel flag raised by Keir MacKinnon (top).Star photo by VINCE FEDOROFF UNITY – Protesters around the North participated in numerous rallys Wednesday. Here, Mayo residents marched in support of protection for the Peel River watershed. Photo by EILEEN PETER

O Canada played in the background as eight-year-old Kier MacKinnon raised the “Protect The Peel” flag outside the Yukon legislature Wednesday afternoon.

The crowd of 300-plus, gathered to protest the government’s Peel land use plan, cheered, their message clear: the fight isn’t over.

Six other communities also gathered to protest the government’s plan Wednesday, including Mayo, Dawson City, and Haines Junction in the Yukon and Inuvik, Fort McPherson, and Aklavik in the Northwest Territories.

At the Whitehorse rally Gill Cracknell and Karen Baltgailis, the executive directors of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon and the Yukon Conservation Society respectively, shared the latest on the legal challenge of the government’s Peel plan before opening the mic to the crowd.

The two environmental organizations along with the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in announced the suit on Tuesday.

Over the course of the hour and a half that the crowd remained gathered, there was a steady line for the mic; people wanting to share their disappointment with the government and their support for the Peel planning commission’s final recommended plan.

Mary Battaja, a Na-Cho Nyak Dun elder, switched between English and Northern Tutchone as she commended the crowd for gathering to protect the Peel.

“We need to keep on moving and fighting for what we believe in and we will win one day,” she said.

Speakers raised concern for the state of democracy in the Yukon repeatedly.

The planning process was democratic, they said, the public spoke and the government ignored them.

“What the Yukon Party government has done is complete and utter contempt for the democratic process,” said Jean-Francois Des Lauriers.

“We will not stand by idly. The Yukon Party government has chosen the route for confrontation. They are looking for a fight and when I look at the people around here they are going to get one,” he continued.

Sabine Almstrom spoke next, and the crowd roared when she called for Premier Darrell Pasloski’s resignation.

Claire Ness brought another perspective and some humour to the rally-calls.

“It’s easy to fall into this us versus them mentality,” she said. “I just want to shed another light on it.

“These people in this government are not these big enemies that we have to fight against. Some people are born and raised Yukoners, they’re us, we are them and maybe they’ve just been lost.

“I encourage everyone to help them, embrace them, and lift them out of those corporate pockets that they’ve fallen into,” she said, to a few guffaws from the crowd.

Many of the protesters voiced their support for the affected First Nations in their fight to have the final recommended plan implemented, and their final agreements respected.

Victor Kisoun, a young First Nations man of Kaska Dena, Inuvialuit, and Vuntut Gwitchin descent, said he is “sick and tired of seeing this government time and time again negotiate in bad faith.”

“This has got to stop here and stop now,” he said.

Duane Aucoin brought a message from the Teslin Tlingit Council.

“We stand in unity with our brothers and sisters from Vuntut, Tr’ondëk, and the Gwich’in Tribal Council. But we’re also here to stand in unity with all Yukoners because this is not just an attack on the final agreements, on the Yukon’s First Nations, this is an attack on all of us,” he said.

Jane Vincent, a member of the Alsek Renewable Resource Council, called the government’s decision to implement a plan other than the one recommended by the planning commission a “betrayal” and worried about the impact on future land planning processes.

“Land use planning is due to arrive in our region, in the Champagne and Aishihik traditional territory. How could I hope to engage our community in a process of land use planning after this disaster?” she questioned.

At least one member from each political party was present at the rally.

Darius Elias, the newest Yukon Party member and the MLA for Vuntut Gwitchin stood to the side and listened quietly to the speeches.

“I’m just here to listen, there’s a lot of Yukoners out here and it’s my job to listen to Yukoners,” he said.

When asked if he supports the government’s plan Elias didn’t commit either way.

“I can’t make any distinctive comments because this is before the courts now and it would be inappropriate for me to say anything on this,” he said, adding “I’m not a cabinet minister, I’m just here to listen to Yukoners.”

Elias said he’s returning to his riding soon to address a number of issues, including the Peel plan.

“I’ve been getting a lot of different responses from my constituency, a lot of them are pretty emotional responses,” he said.

“I’ve been through these things before, Vuntut National Park, I participated in the Old Crow Flats special management area and the fishing branch which was very contentious in our territory and this was nothing new. When you deal with protected areas and land and water and wildlife people care and that’s all I’m here to do is listen,” the MLA said.

NDP Leader Liz Hanson and MLAs Kate White, Kevin Barr, and Lois Moorcroft, along with interim Liberal Leader Sandy Silver were also present at the rally.

The Yukon government released its Peel land use plan last week. It calls for 29 per cent protection and allows new staking in 71 per cent of the region. One of the more contentious aspects of the plan is that it allows roads in protected areas to access existing claims.

The Peel planning commission’s final recommended plan, which the legal challenge seeks to have implemented, called for 55 per cent protection of the Peel, 25 per cent interim protection, and new staking and development in 20 per cent of the region.

CommentsAdd a comment


Jan 30, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Wow, I am surprised how Darius has changed. Doesn’t the Yukon Party MLA’s vote on a decision or is it only the Ministers? You are all voted in, and your constituents expect you to represent them before you represent a party?

north of 60

Jan 30, 2014 at 7:14 pm

There is a significant group of rich Yukoners who got that way staking open land, embellishing the prospects, and selling the claims to mining companies for a tidy profit.  They appear to believe the whole Yukon belongs to them to use as they see fit.  They also appear to believe that their wishes take priority over what anyone else might want. It’s no secret that they contribute significantly to the YP coffers, wouldn’t you if wearing their boots?

It’s perhaps ironic that attitudes like theirs, all over the world, have made unspoiled Yukon land so valuable for tourism.  Unspoiled beauty is becoming increasingly rare in a world run by the money people.

A recent quote in National Geographic, attributed to one of Yukon’s “Prospectors-of-the-Year” sums up their attitude nicely. 
“I tell people not to get too attached to all this beauty. We just might want to mine it.”

Some would consider that being arrogant, selfish and greedy.

Dean Williams

Jan 30, 2014 at 7:31 pm

Just Say'in

Jan 31, 2014 at 8:43 pm

“Endless line of supporters”???? Really come on Whse. star. Look at the picture. Same people that are at all the other fringe rallies.

Max Mack

Feb 1, 2014 at 2:01 am

“Endless line of Peel supporters . . . “

Distort much?

mary laker

Feb 1, 2014 at 10:34 pm

To ‘Just Sayin’,

I have never been to a ‘rallie’, fringe or otherwise, in the Yukon.  But I was there for the Peel rally.  So was my partner, for the first time ever at a protest, and at least one other person who I know for sure this was a ‘first time’ protesting, and I suspect that other people who I knew who there there were also first time protesters.  I was even surprised to see them there.  Maybe as surprised as they were to see me.

People are moving from sad and disappointed, to very angry about this.

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