First Nations, groups recruit heavy legal artillery for fight
Renowned aboriginal rights lawyer Thomas Berger has been retained by two Yukon First Nations and two local environmental organizations
Renowned aboriginal rights lawyer Thomas Berger has been retained by two Yukon First Nations and two local environmental organizations opposed to the Yukon government’s Peel land use plan released earlier this week.
A formal announcement will be made Monday in Vancouver, where the Mineral Exploration Roundup event will be underway.
Berger will lead the press conference which will outline the details of an action to be taken by the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun, the Yukon Conservation Society, and the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
Nacho Nyak Dun Chief Ed Champion confirmed earlier this week the First Nations would be taking legal action against the government following the release of the Peel plan.
Both governments and the two environmental NGOs condemned the Yukon government this week, arguing that it acted outside of the process outlined in the Umbrella Final Agreement in implementing its own plan.
The government disagreed, maintaining it followed the process as outlined, noting it has the right to accept, reject, or modify the final recommended plan.
In an advisory about the announcement to be made Monday, the groups explained why they are taking action against the government.
“After seven years of research and consultation following a constitutionally mandated process under the Umbrella Final Agreement and Yukon land claims agreements, the Peel Watershed Planning Commission produced a Final Recommended Plan that would protect 80 per cent of Northern Yukon’s 68,000-square-kilometre Peel River watershed – a plan supported by affected First Nations and the majority of the Yukon public,” the release says.
“The Government of Yukon has adopted its own unilaterally developed plan for the region, which opens up most of the watershed to roads and industrial development.”
Most recently in Yukon courts, Berger in November 2012 represented the Ross River Dena Council in its lawsuit against the federal government.
Ross River is claiming Ottawa has breached its duty under the Constitution of Canada by not addressing the aboriginal rights and title of the First Nation before giving away land inside Ross River’s traditional territory. The matter is still before the courts.
The Ross River Dena Council is one of three Yukon First Nations without an aboriginal land claim settlement.
– With files from Chuck Tobin. See related story, p. 6.
By Ainslie Cruickshank