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News archive for January 22, 2014

‘This might be the day when they lost the next election’

Na-cho Nyak Dun Chief Ed Champion says it’s a given that the four affected First Nations will take the Yukon government to court over the Peel land use plan released Tuesday.

By Ainslie Cruickshank on January 22, 2014 at 3:23 pm

photo

Photo by Whitehorse Star

(left to right) Karen Baltgailis, Scott Kent, Kate White, Sandy Silver and Dave Loeks

Na-cho Nyak Dun Chief Ed Champion says it’s a given that the four affected First Nations will take the Yukon government to court over the Peel land use plan released Tuesday.

“We’ve been well prepared for this; we’ve just been waiting for this decision from the government,” Champion said in an interview this morning.

An announcement regarding the legal challenge will likely come next week at the Mineral Exploration Roundup event in Vancouver, he told the Star.

Champion said the four affected First Nations, including the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Vuntut Gwitchin and the Tetlit Gwich’in, are “very disappointed” with the government’s decision to implement its own land use plan for the Peel watershed rather than the plan recommended by the land use planning commission in 2011.

Last Friday, the four governments announced they would implement the final recommended plan within their settlements lands, and urged the Yukon government to do the same.

“The new plan is outside of the scope of the planning process,” Champion said, referring to the process outlined in chapter 11 of the land claim’s Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA).

“This action is undermining all the hard work that’s gone into the 20 years of negotiating final agreements and the 20 years that we have been implementing them,” Champion said.

“They are kicking a sleeping giant when they undermine the final agreements. This might be the day when they lost the next election.”

David Loeks chaired the Peel Land Use Planning Commission which spent seven years working to develop the final recommended plan.

He told the Star today a legal challenge is necessary to protect the process outlined in the final agreements.

“The land claims agreements more or less asked the First Nations to give up theoretical title to 100 per cent of the landscape in exchange for title to just a portion of it plus the promise of co-management on the other part of the landscape,” he noted.

But the government’s actions with the release of its plan essentially divide responsibility for land management, going against that integral idea of co-management, Loeks suggested.
“If the First Nations allow this to pass unchallenged, it basically sets the precedence that you really don’t need the UFA planning process, that YTG is entitled to plan on their own.”
Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Scott Kent continued to contend today that the government has followed the process outlined under the UFA.

“We’re very confident that we’re acting within our jurisdiction with these plans,” Kent said in an interview.

“We have the ability to accept, reject, or modify and we’ve chosen, as (Environment) minister (Currie) Dixon mentioned, to modify the plan,” he said.

“Whether or not court action is taken is certainly something that’s up to the First Nations, but as I mentioned, we’re certainly very confident that we followed the process that’s set out in the Umbrella Final Agreement,” Kent continued.

Both opposition parties and the Yukon Conservation Society also expressed disappointment and concern about the government’s plan.

Kate White, the NDP’s Environment critic, called it a “letdown” for the First Nations governments and Yukoners who participated in the process that led to the development of the final recommended plan.

The plan isn’t only bad for the environment, White said, it’s bad for the economy too.

“This plan doesn’t talk about economic certainty; this plan talks about litigation, it talks about confrontation and it talks about disrespect for First Nations governments and disrespect for all Yukoners who participated in the planning process.

“I’m shaking my head right now. I’m waving my hands and I’m shaking my head. I’m disappointed,” she said.

Sandy Silver, the interim leader of the Liberal party, called the government’s plan a complete rejection of the final recommended plan, rather than the modification the government has touted it as.

“We need to take a look at next steps, and the next step here is basically that we’re going to see the Yukon Party once again meet the First Nations in front of a judge,” Silver said.

He then highlighted concerns about the future of land use planning in other parts of the territory.

The message to Yukoners is, “Stay at home; we don’t really care what you have to say,” Silver said.

“I would imagine that the people working on the Dawson land use planning are probably getting that message loud and clear.”

The conservation society is also considering its legal options, Karen Baltgailis, its executive director, said Tuesday.

“What the Yukon government has done is almost exactly reverse the plan from what the commission had recommended,” she said.

The commission’s plan called for the protection of 80 per cent of the Peel watershed, 55 per cent permanent protection and 25 per cent interim protection. The rest would be open to development.

Under the government’s plan, 29 per cent of the Peel would be considered a protected area, while 44 per cent would be what’s considered Restricted Use Wilderness Area, where limited development could occur.

The rest would be considered Integrated Management Areas, where most development opportunities would exist.

But Baltgailis noted there is the potential for development even in the protected areas under the government’s plan.

“The existing mining claims in those areas would be allowed to continue and all-season road access could be developed to create mines,” she said.

“Basically, following the Yukon government’s plan, you could have a road up the Wind River and several mines in the Wind and Bonnet Plume watersheds. That could not have happened under the commission’s plan.”

Dixon said in an interview any development within the protected area would be subject to the Yukon’s environmental assessments, and would be held to an even higher standard.

He noted this situation isn’t unique in the territory, as there are existing mineral claims within the boundaries of Tombstone Territorial Park.

No new staking would be allowed within the protected areas, but Dixon said the government is not interested in expropriating existing claims – in the Peel or anywhere else in the Yukon – because of the high cost that could be associated with buying them out.

The NDP’s Environment critic suggested expropriating the claims might not cost as much as the government insinuates.

There was a speculative staking rush in the Peel after the start of the land use planning process when the government didn’t withdraw the area, White said.

“People went in in the hopes that they would get bought out by government if it was turned into a protected area,” she noted.

“But we’ve got jurisdictions all over Canada that have won by saying we’ll reimburse you for the money you invested but we will not reimburse you for an imaginary number that you’ve given us about what it’s worth.”

Kent noted that between 2000 and 2008, more than $50 million was spent on exploration activities.

The government would rather spend that kind of money on health care and education than on expropriating mining claims, he said.

The land use plan released yesterday calls for an automatic review of the plan within 10 years.

See related coverage opposite.

By Ainslie Cruickshank
Star Reporter

CommentsAdd a comment

NorthernMike

Jan 22, 2014 at 6:37 pm

As much as I may be an NDPer, please oh please NDP and Liberals in an effort to stop this join forces and defeat this government.  Time to be politically realistic and stop letting the minority lead this territory and country to ruin.

north of 60

Jan 22, 2014 at 6:45 pm

All three opposition parties decry the government’s decision.  However it won’t amount to anything unless this unites the opposition to defeat the YP in the next election.  Will the opposition parties continue bickering among themselves so vote splitting will guarantee another YP victory?

Frank

Jan 22, 2014 at 9:13 pm

The Yukon Party would not take a stance on the Peel prior to the election while planning to ignore the planning Commission,  First Nations and Yukoners-  and make sure they allowed exploration and development for their industry supporters.

I hope voters teach them a lesson.

Unite the left

Jan 23, 2014 at 2:30 pm

This Yukon Party government says they had no plan for the Peel 3 short years ago going into the election but managed to hammer out this abomination that will haunt the territory for eternity.

This is the same Yukon Party government that has failed at planning and building a new FH Collins high school for 14 years.
If these fools can’t build a school, clearly that have no place in planning the decimation of a pristine wilderness.

Paul Christensen

Jan 23, 2014 at 5:03 pm

I think the YP has really misplayed this one.  I support mining.  Casino will probably be a good project for us, as will the other mines that will follow in that area.  And this is why not following the PRPCs recommendations is a mistake.  We don’t need to even think about developing the Peel right now.  We have more on the books than we can handle right now.  That was the beauty of the PRPCs report; part of the protected areas were to be open to review at a later date.  Money in the bank so to speak.
Really, this whole issue should just be put to a referendum.  We didn’t get to vote on it last election, let the people decide now.

mary laker

Jan 24, 2014 at 11:45 am

During the last election I made my choice of who to vote for solely based on who was most likely to defeat the Yukon Party candidate, and did that solely based on my concern that the YP had a secret plan up their sleeve to throw out the Peel Plan (which they denied at the time).  I did not care one bit if the candidate was Green, NDP or Liberal.  Now maybe the three parties can get with the program and ask their members if they would agree with a one time plan during the next election to only run one candidate in each riding instead of cutting each other’s throats for the benefit of the Yukon Party.

There is too much at stake to continue to allow the Yukon Party to win majority governmments with 40% of the voters approval.

yukoner

Jan 24, 2014 at 12:39 pm

I have a prediction Yukon party wins next election.

north of 60

Jan 24, 2014 at 1:17 pm

@mary laker

That is a good plan.  Now all the opposition has to do is put aside their political egos and make it work.  It will be interesting to see if they really care more about the Yukon than their precious political party identity.

Mike Hawk

Jan 24, 2014 at 1:20 pm

I know the 70% of the Yukon population with cushy government jobs who get paid no matter what the economy does would like to make the Yukon their own private park.

Thank heavens somebody has the foresight of recognizing we need an economy up here.

annie

Jan 24, 2014 at 2:49 pm

Mike Hawk…..a breath of fresh air. An economy that brings good jobs, prosperity and growth is exactly what we need here.  This Peel Plan is what we need to encourage responsible development in the Yukon.

Dearest Annie and Mike

Jan 24, 2014 at 4:20 pm

The Yukon Party’s Peel Plan does anything but create growth or bring prosperity to all.

In the end what had been put forward creates even more uncertainty and in the end no one with $s will rush to invest in the Yukon because of the chaos the YP has created.

They have already wasted $6,000,000 of tax payer money on a school that has yet to be built, wasted $50,000,000 on a Hospital Corp project on Hospital Road. How many millions on acute care hospitals that we now know were not needed has been wasted?

And now with the Peel they have created a boondoggle of epic portions that will hurt Yukon for a decade.
Don’t congratulate, ask them to do the honorable thing, call an election and let Yukoners decide what direction they want the Territory to take.

Darryl ... call an election if you are so convinced you know what we want and are right ... call an election.

north of 60

Jan 24, 2014 at 10:06 pm

@mikehawk

Nobody rational is suggesting that mining and resource development be banned from the Yukon.  There is more than enough mining potential in the rest of the Yukon to leave the Peel 80% undisturbed as recommended by a broad spectrum of experts.

Those who believe that people with an environmental conscience want to stop all development are only listening to the most vocal and radical extremist fringe.

There are places for mining, 80% of the Peel isn’t one of them.

Northone

Jan 25, 2014 at 12:22 pm

Unfortunately, I would not expect much to change ‘on the ground’ so to speak, with a change of government.

My observation is that once in power, there is very little difference between the political parties in terms of environmental policy.  As a case in point, the NDP were in power in the late 80/early 90s when Curragh was running the Faro mine - that government gave Curragh all sorts of direct and indirect subsidies and lobbied federal regulators relentlessly on their behalf - all part of the reason why we now have a half-billion dollar hole in the ground there now.

The NDP also passed the Oil and Gas Act - that allows fracking.
And the Liberals, for the short time they were in power, they were as pro development as the Yukon Party…
It’s easy to say all sorts of things in opposition but when in power, little changes.

north of 60

Jan 25, 2014 at 7:40 pm

Canadian majority governments at all levels are time limited dictatorships.  That’s the result of disproportionate representation in a winner-takes-all system.

The fact that the YP ignored experts and public opinion is bad, however the fact that they could do that with impunity is much worse.
If we want democracy in the Yukon, we will have to change the electoral process.

Just Say'in

Jan 25, 2014 at 10:38 pm

I still think the way to resolve this is every time someone in the private sector loses a job then someone in Government has to go. Without the Tax generator then there can be no Government jobs. There is a cause and affect and they should be allowed to feel it. May change their opinion.

Sally Wright

Jan 27, 2014 at 11:47 am

The divisiveness that the neoliberalist federal government has created in our community is part of oil industry’s profit plan.
Keep the consumer addicted to oil, externalize the costs of the pollution they create and undermine democracy.
Who paid for the climate change event that has happened in Whitehorse these past few weeks? All that desperate plowing on Thursday and Friday is going to show up on your taxes. Businesses certainly paid dearly with private snow removal. If the city hadn’t acted so urgently we would have had city entombed in rutted ice. Now we have a passable though treaherous skating rink.
I didn’t see the oil companies pumping out High River, nor did they step in to help the people of the Phillipines. Sadly, the oil industry profits from the very weather that they create. What is fair about that?
The Yukon has an amazing opportunity to do things differently. We can be a beacon of hope for societies that have no clean water, no clean air, and no nature left.
It is unhelpful to label our civil servants as cushy, and entitled. I feel for people whose work forces them to tow the line on something that they don’t believe in. At least when you are employed by a business, there is a clear idea of governance.
When you work for a window manufacturer, you’ll be making, and selling windows, you probably won’t be marketing rocks to break those windows.
The way things are going for civil servants right now, every 4 years or so the management changes, with only 30% of the shareholders having all the power. All the resources are going towards an industry that destroys the ability of our children to have happy healthy lives. If you speak out, you lose your job. Look at our muzzled scientists. Working for the government these days must be a soul-eating exercise. I feel for these people.
The Peel is our line in the sand and we must seize this opportunity.

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