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Chief Simon Mervyn, Chief Roberta Joseph and Executive director Christina Macdonald

Leaders, groups praise Supreme Court’s response

Yukon First Nations and environmental organizations are applauding this morning’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that it will hear an appeal in the Peel River watershed case.

By Chuck Tobin on June 9, 2016

Yukon First Nations and environmental organizations are applauding this morning’s decision by the Supreme Court of Canada that it will hear an appeal in the Peel River watershed case.

“The Supreme Court’s decision confirms what we’ve maintained all along: there are significant legal questions raised by the Yukon government’s conduct during the Peel planning process that deserve the Supreme Court’s – and Canada’s – attention,” Chief Roberta Joseph of Dawson City’s Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in said in a joint statement issued this morning following the high court’s announcement.

“We are thankful for this opportunity, and look forward to defending the integrity of our final agreements.”

While the Yukon Supreme Court and the Yukon Court of Appeal agreed the territorial government breached its treaty obligations during its participation in the Peel land use planning process, they disagreed on the remedy that should be applied.

The high court was asked to hear an appeal to clarify the matter. It’s not expected the hearing will go ahead until next year. (See story above).

“We signed our final agreements with Canada and the Government of Yukon in 1993, and we came to the table again in good faith for the Peel Watershed consultations,” said Chief Simon Mervyn of the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun.

“We are pleased that Canada’s highest court recognizes the legally binding nature of these agreements and the national significance of this case.”

Added Chief Bruce Charlie of Old Crow’s Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation:

“This pristine wilderness, caribou habitat and eco systems is an essential element of our very existence, the integrity of our agreements will be clarified once and for all and will stand the test of time.”

The Yukon’s NDP and Liberal opposition parties also issued statements this morning criticizing the Yukon Party government for its continuing legal battle with the First Nations over the land use planning process for the Peel.

Both reiterated their unfettered support for the planning commission’s recommendation that 80 per cent of the watershed be protected from development, and that surface access be restricted.

The Yukon Party government, on the other hand, maintained in a statement this morning Yukoners deserve clarity about how the land use planning process set out in the land claim agreements should work, and who has the final say over public lands.

While going through the courts is not the government’s preferred approach, it is necessary to provide the clarity needed in the Yukon’s land use planning process, the government said.

The request to have the Supreme Court of Canada hear an appeal was filed by Mayo’s First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun, Dawson’s Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Old Crow’s Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, the Yukon Conservation Society and Yukon Chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Executive director Christina Macdonald of the conservation society said the parties had a telephone conference this morning with their legal team, which includes renowned aboriginal rights lawyer Thomas Berger.

The Supreme Court of Canada hearing is not expected to go ahead until early next year, she said.

Macdonald said in the meantime the legal team will be preparing their arguments.

NDP Opposition Leader Liz Hanson said in her statement this morning the Court of Appeal decision gave the Yukon Party government a second chance despite its bad-faith negotiations in the land use planning process for the Peel.

“This is a second chance that they do not deserve,” Hansen said.

“Premier Darrell Pasloski and his government have failed to honour the letter and spirit of the final agreements and they have set the land use planning process back by years.”

The NDP leader said the Yukon Party will not be able to hide its position on the Peel during the upcoming territorial election, as it did heading into the 2011 election and throughout that campaign.

“The Yukon Party government has fought the will of the people at every turn,” Liberal Leader Sandy Silver said in his statement this morning.

“Today’s decision is a reminder of their inability to consult or negotiate with First Nation governments.

“While it is very disappointing that we have to go to the highest court in the land to be heard, at least the Yukon will find certainty for our environment and our economy after a decade of failure.”

Macdonald pointed the two opposition parties have stated their unwavering support for maximum wilderness protection in the Peel, in keeping with the land use plan recommended by the planning commission but rejected by the government.

If either party wins the upcoming election, there could still be protection regardless of the Supreme Court of Canada decision, she said.

Macdonald emphasized clarity from the high court is still of the utmost importance to provide certainty in the land use planning process.

Of the eight regional planning exercises contemplated in the Yukon land claim agreements, only one has been completed, she noted.

Macdonald said the Supreme Court of Canada decision will provide the clarity needed in land use planning going forward.

Meanwhile, she said the conservation society will be updating its Peel website to continue its public campaign for protection of the Peel.

“We are asking people to sign its pledge as a gesture of support to show all levels of government the people who support this, and protection of the Peel.”

Comments (8)

Up 6 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Jun 15, 2016 at 11:39 am

So once again the public demonstration circus is coming to town as the various anti-groups gather their supporters in a show of force to protect the Peel region from the doom of development. Already CPAWS has their website up promoting like-minded protectionists from around the world to sign their name to the eform letter, and they will no doubt present this voluminous petition as evidence that the majority of Yukoners are against anything but total protection. Fine, designate it a fully-protected park where nobody can exploit it for profit. Not the hunting outfitters, not the wilderness tour operators, not the mineral industry- nobody! Leave it in its original pristine state.
Further, I am not in favor of the international save-it crowd from dictating public policy for people who make their homes here in the Yukon. If there is some plebiscite on this it should be restricted to Yukon residents and no others. I suspect the CPAWS folks will parade their manufactured petition around claiming they have the moral high ground because they manipulated their associates in all things green and anti-development from around the planet to type their name on the prepared form and push the send button.
I recall recently the NDP spouting off about lobbyists and how they should not have any sway in influencing public policy. We’ll see if they hold to this principle during this next round.

Up 10 Down 4

moe on Jun 13, 2016 at 7:51 pm

Pro science 'greenie' is anything but 'green'. I've followed her/his posts and s/he is a Yukon Party supporter who supports development at most every turn. This 'turn it into a park' is a jab at the trophy hunters and tourism industry. If the miners can't have it, they should not either.

I actually agree to some extent. There should be big permit fees for running tourism and trophy hunting in the Peel. There is no way that Canada should let the value of this land be utilized to make tens of thousands of dollars per customer (in the case of trophy hunting), in exchange for a $100 permit to kill.

Likewise the companies from Germany and elsewhere who offer tours in the Yukon. Pay up. That goes for Canadian companies as well.

Up 12 Down 9

wolverine on Jun 11, 2016 at 3:58 pm

@PSG is correct. The best solution is to make the Peel a Park.

The global garbage producing 'mill' in Asia does not need Yukon minerals. They have mining regions closer to home that are much easier to exploit, without any pesky environmental regulations to hinder land-rape.

When all the trees have been cut down, when all the animals have been hunted, when all the waters are polluted, when all the air is unsafe to breathe,
only then will you discover you cannot eat money.
~ Cree Prophecy

Up 18 Down 0

YukonMax on Jun 10, 2016 at 12:47 pm

"Of the eight regional planning exercises contemplated in the Yukon land claim agreements, only one has been completed, she noted."
So, a whole bunch of us will be long gone (dead) before it's all dealt with.
Should have stayed in school and become a lawyer.
Oh well.

Up 17 Down 40

jc on Jun 9, 2016 at 9:15 pm

I think after the last 150 years of Canadian tax payers paying out treaty money it's time for the FN to start paying back to society. The Peel has great riches that need to be mined out to help Canada out of its debt load. Once it's mined out the FN and evironuts can turn it into a national park.

Up 25 Down 9

Joey Manvilly on Jun 9, 2016 at 7:52 pm

With a new government will this really be required?

I think the Liberals or NDP will work with First Nations rather than against them.

Up 13 Down 17

ProScience Greenie on Jun 9, 2016 at 7:30 pm

Time to end all human exploitation in the Peel watershed and create a large national park.
Land use planning does not offer true protection. Only a park can do that.

The fact that FNs and their allies are not calling for a park is a shame.

Up 46 Down 17

Jack Colby on Jun 9, 2016 at 4:39 pm

it's time for the Yukon Party to SHUT UP, call an election and let the 59% of
Yukoners who did NOT vote for you in 2011 judge your record.

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