Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Taylor Blewett

HAPPY WITH WATERSHED DECISION – ‘It’s good when the good guys win,’ NDP MP Nathan Cullen said of Friday’s high court ruling on the Peel Watershed planning process.

Peel ruling holds lesson in colonialism, MP says

New Democratic Party MP Nathan Cullen has a special affinity for the Yukon.

By Taylor Blewett on December 4, 2017

New Democratic Party MP Nathan Cullen has a special affinity for the Yukon.

He first visited the territory in the late 1990s on vacation, and he’s been coming back ever since.

In 2004, he was elected to represent the federal riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley in British Columbia, and he’s held the position ever since. The riding borders southern Yukon.

As he often does en route to Atlin, B.C. – the community is part of his riding – Cullen stopped in Whitehorse on Friday.

He sat down with the Star to talk about the Supreme Court’s Peel decision, the federal NDP’s new leader, and the northern experience.

Dec. 1 was a historic day that was a long time coming, Cullen acknowledged.

After a nearly four-year legal fight, Yukon First Nations and environmentalists saw Canada’s highest court rule in their favour.

The former Yukon Party government had not participated in good faith in the land use planning process for the Peel watershed, the Supreme Court ruled, and the current government will have to go back and consult on a plan that will protect 80 per cent of the area from development.

“After so much bad faith, recent and historic, it’s good when the good guys win,” Cullen said.

“If you want to correct a colonial past, you have to stop acting in a colonial way. And that means negotiating in good faith, and then following through on those negotiations.”

Cullen said the chiefs of the First Nations in his riding – one of the largest and more remote in Canada – have been reading over the Peel decision to ascertain how it will affect future land use planning, wilderness protection and negotiations with government.

National implications

The Supreme Court ruling will have national implications, Cullen suggested.

Canada’s understanding of conservation is changing. His own certainly has.

“Since coming to the North, and eventually representing the Northwest, my sense of conservation has evolved to include people,” he said.

“That there’s a symbiotic relationship that we’re seeking to be on the land, with the land, in a way that will sustain it forever. And I think that’s important.”

He relayed a story former prime minister Jean Chrétien has taken to regaling audiences with.

As Indian Affairs and Northern Development minister beginning in the late 1960s, Chrétien was flying over Canada’s northern territories when he saw a beautiful parcel of land. He resolved to make the area into a park – and so he did.

From this decision, confirmed in a Canadian Geographic article, Auyuittuq National Park in Nunavut was born.

“Everybody claps when he tells this story, and I’m sitting there with a northern perspective saying – was there anybody there? From 30,000 feet, you decided what the future of this land should be?” Cullen said.

“That is a colonial idea. Even if you think you’re doing something good, it’s still the mindset of terra nullius, of nobody (is there) so we can plant a flag and make decisions.”

As a politician, understanding of life in the North is best gained by experiencing that life, in some capacity, Cullen explained.

“You need to get stuck on the road, because the weather’s (bad), and the plane won’t leave because of the fog. You need time to just be with people without your phone going off and running to the next meeting.”

That’s the goal with the party’s new leader, Jagmeet Singh, he said.

The first visible minority leader of a major federal party in the history of Canadian politics, Singh spent his years as an Ontario MPP representing a riding Cullen called “a true suburb” in the Greater Toronto Area.

Cullen said that in the new year, he plans to bring Singh to his B.C. riding for a First Nation celebration that he’s been invited to.

“He’s so jazzed. He is so curious. He’s a very confident person but he’s surprisingly humble when dealing with things that he doesn’t know about,” Cullen said.

And when it comes to the Yukon, Cullen thinks Singh will be just as excited.

“I’m going to write to Jagmeet after this and say, ‘Hey. Just in the Yukon. You would love this place.’”

Singh is currently on a cross-country tour.

There’s been no announcement yet as to a planned northern stop on his agenda.

Comments (11)

Up 2 Down 0

Groucho d'North on Dec 8, 2017 at 11:45 am

Typical NDP comment designed to suck-up to the aboriginal population. Too bad nobody talks about how they were exploited by the various green advocacy organisations to carry their no development message. Now the green advocacy can crow how they saved a part of the planet by denying new economic opportunities. But some aboriginal leaders are beginning to wake up and understand how they are being used to advance the agenda's of others. I have hopes this trend will continue and Canada's first nations can speak on their own behalf without the added support of large global advocates who don't always get it right...like this example: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/greenpeace-should-compensate-over-anti-sealing-campaign-says-activist-1.3875701

Up 0 Down 0

Len Usher on Dec 7, 2017 at 12:57 am

Colonialism eh how about the name “ British Colombia”

Up 7 Down 0

Rorex1983 on Dec 6, 2017 at 12:48 pm

First Nations are not the stewards of the land they are always made out to be.
First Nations are people and like all people some are great, others are terrible. Some chiefs do what's best for their people and the land, others what best for the chief only. FN Chiefs are people too and finding one with as much knowledge and experience that is required to make decisions about what should be a conserved or not amongst the limited populations of some FN groups is often impossible.

I wonder how many first nations would say their chief is the wisest person in their community...... or is it like politics general are the person who ran and was the best of several bad options.

Up 1 Down 0

Dave on Dec 6, 2017 at 10:55 am

Whitehunter, my apologies. In this case I confused Tombstone Territorial park with the 'Dempster no hunting corridor' court case in the mid 2000's. I should have verified the information before posting.

Up 1 Down 0

Whitehunter on Dec 5, 2017 at 9:35 pm

Uh hey Dave, licensed Yukon hunters are allowed to hunt in Tombstone Park too!

Maybe you’re thinking about national parks like Kluane.

Different types of “park” different types of rules.

Up 2 Down 1

Josey Wales on Dec 5, 2017 at 5:29 pm

Hey Dave....indeed it is that way. When one really breaks down this fetish with racial supremacy, fed well by identity politics all the nonesense that comes with?
Makes me think of a Monty Python skit....”better get a bucket”
More yellow and less white on the hunting maps each year.
I personally loathe supremacists wherever they reside on the melanoma scale. Pandering political windbags and their delusion have created quite an atmosphere of division amongst us all with their tactics.
...and tactics is what the peel and revisionist history is all about.
Power, racial supremacy, elitism....all under the guise of concern for the planet.
The sheep eat this stuff up like grass, and I think that is baaaa baaaa baaaaadd.

Up 5 Down 0

Dave on Dec 5, 2017 at 11:48 am

PSG, 'park' means natives hunt freely within the boundaries as long as it's in their traditional territory while Caucasians can not. Why do you think there was such a push for the Tombstone territorial park under the TH settlement? All that did was create another natives only hunting zone in the Tombstone park boundaries. YG originally tried to say the park was no hunting for everyone, but immediately after it was established two TH members went hunting there to push their right to hunt in their traditional territory and YG backed down on the issue rather than go to court where they knew they would lose. Park as regarding the hunting aspect is just another back door way to create a two tier system around our constitution where all Canadians are laughingly referred to as having equal rights.

Up 2 Down 3

Aurorra on Dec 5, 2017 at 6:35 am

ProScience Greenie....you are missing the point. It's not that parks are bad,but rather 'how' the decision was made. Colonialism must go.

Up 5 Down 1

jack on Dec 5, 2017 at 1:17 am

What a complete load of NDP rubbish this article is and hardly newsworthy enough to print.

This sounds like something you would see on his personal BIO on the NDP website.

Up 4 Down 2

jc on Dec 4, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Maybe its time the Yukon left Canada and joined Alaska. They'd get my vote.

Up 3 Down 4

ProScience Greenie on Dec 4, 2017 at 3:50 pm

Call me old school but I still think parks are a good thing because humans are not allowed to kill animals within the boundaries. Animals like not being hunted by humans whether it was the first wave of colonists way back when the ice sheets melted or the other successive waves that followed pre and post European contact.

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