Whitehorse Daily Star

YG stance prompts commission vice-chair to quit

The vice-chair of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission resigned last month, denouncing the Yukon government’s decision to permit prospective mineral staking in the area.

By Gabrielle Plonka on October 28, 2020

The vice-chair of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission resigned last month, denouncing the Yukon government’s decision to permit prospective mineral staking in the area.

“It seemed to me that it was obvious the government wasn’t going to change the position on staking claims – it was just going ahead without consulting the commission,” Art Webster told the Star Tuesday.

The Dawson Regional Planning Commission was established in 2018 to develop a land use plan for 39,854 square kilometres in west-central Yukon.

Webster resigned from the commission in early September.

In his letter of resignation, the former NDP cabinet minister said he was initially enthusiastic about land planning in the Tr’ondëk Hwëchin First Nation’s traditional territory.

“I was eager to start a land planning process that would not be adversely affected by the speculative staking of mining claims as it had during the development of the Peel regional plan,” Webster wrote.

The ex-vice-chair said he was disappointed to learn in August that speculative staking would be permitted, parallel to the commission’s planning process.

“The staking of mineral claims during a land use planning exercise undermines the process, as new third party interests dictate future land use,” Webster wrote.

“From a Commission’s perspective, it handicaps our recommended plan’s ability to minimize actual and potential land use conflicts…” 

Webster, a former Dawson mayor, told the Star that the Tr’ondëk Hwëchin First Nation has been advocating for a freeze to mineral staking.

The commission tried to facilitate a meeting between the First Nation and the Yukon government last March to discuss a withdrawal of land staking during the planning process.

The First Nation accepted the offer to participate, but the government did not.

Webster argues that this works against the spirit of the Umbrella Final Agreement, which dictates that land planning should be co-managed by First Nations and the territorial government.

“It doesn’t seem like there’s any co-management going on here – the Yukon government is making the decision that we definitely have a preference for mining,” Webster said.

When the Peel region was protected in 2017 after a lengthy Supreme Court of Canada battle, it left mineral stakers with claims in the region “high and dry,” Webster said. 

“I am also disappointed that YG has not learned a valuable lesson from the Peel regional plan: a significant majority of Yukon people want specific areas of our territory free from industrial activity and accompanying road infrastructure,” Webster wrote in his resignation.

“They want development prohibited, and wilderness protected.”

The Peel region had placer claims for decades before the case went to the Supreme Court.

The Dawson region, comparatively, has very few claims. Webster explained that the Yukon government could avoid another situation like the Peel by halting staking now.

Liz Hanson, the NDP MLA for Whitehorse Centre, brought Webster’s resignation letter to the legislative assembly on Monday.

She questioned why the government is moving forward with land planning and staking claims in the same manner as happened in the Peel region.

“Yukoners do not want to be forced into another drawn-out and divisive court battle like the Peel, but by all accounts, this government is waiting for another court battle to save them from making a decision,” Hanson said.

Ranj Pillai, the minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, said he’s confident that agreements can be found if staked land falls under protection.

Pillai said he is currently working with those who have claims in the Peel region, and they’re looking at options to release the claims.

“They are working with us to look at different opportunities such as credits – not unlike what had happened in the Tombstone Park work,” Pillai said.

“So, we do believe that there are ways to relinquish that tenure as we move forward; that is the route we will take.”

Pillai told reporters that prospective staking doesn’t necessarily mean the land will be developed, and a balance must be struck between mineral staking and conservation.

“It’s because you’ve got really significant wildlife habitat … you have traditional areas of hunting and trapping that are extremely important to the Tr’ondëk Hwëchin,” Pillai said.

“On top of that, you have areas of mineralization and some of the most valuable mineralization in the entire country, and it’s all in the same place.”

Comments (11)

Up 0 Down 0

Nathan Living on Nov 4, 2020 at 5:20 pm

We need to have a few placer miners on the planning board.
Their perspective is that they are not responsible for wetland inventories and can mine them because they have been doing it forever. Their environmental destruction is grandfathered, ha ha.

Up 5 Down 1

Groucho d'North on Nov 1, 2020 at 9:58 am

Looks like there is an openning for a new underminer.

Up 4 Down 8

Spud on Oct 31, 2020 at 3:49 pm

Pretty sure tmyk is a yuk con party staffer.

Up 20 Down 4

Bob’s Your Uncle although it could be Steve... on Oct 30, 2020 at 8:40 pm

FFS! Defund the government. The people running it are as absolutely hopeless as a Liberal Ethics Committee.
No other institution could be as toxic and still exist. How many more scandals, how many more times do we get to hear the conflict of the internal workings of the government before we hold it to task?

These people would literally eat their own children to survive and some I’m sure, just for the fun of it. Here they are again... Minch, munch, munch...
The craziest thing though is that all of you are buying into the lie that it is your fault because government says so... You are racist, you have implicit bias, you have white privilege, you have male privilege... While it is they that make the rules!

Turn their pointing finger back at them. It is you who are created the fuhcked up society we were living in and you are the ones who are the next fuhcked up society we are going to live in!

No correct minded person should accept this from the people who are supposedly elected to serve society.

Up 8 Down 11

Historian on Oct 30, 2020 at 7:57 pm

Hey TMYK that's some nice revisionist history my friend.
"At least the YP had the balls to say they were against the Peel Plan and not just freeze it."

If you lived here in 2011 for the election you would recall that the Yukon Party refused to take a position (no balls) on the Peel before the election in order to hoodwink everyone. And it worked for them. Then Yukon wasted a ton of money and resources fighting its own First Nations, Outfitters and enviro groups in court as a result of Currie Dixon's disastrous Peel Plan. The current government has enacted the Peel Plan as originally proposed. The same one which was tossed out originally by the conservatives.

Now the Yukon Party is doing the same spineless thing again by refusing to tell everyone whether they would open up the borders or not, whether they support the state of emergency, whether they support deficit spending to keep businesses afloat etc., etc. So they are either very indecisive OR intentionally misleading people.

Up 7 Down 2

Did we ever get refunds for gift certificates? on Oct 30, 2020 at 7:12 pm

Just curious.

Up 21 Down 8

john on Oct 29, 2020 at 1:17 pm

Pretty sure this was a Liberal set play to remind everybody of the Peel. They are worried about Yukon Party and will do anything to bring up the past. Many people asked why they even chose that person as chair to begin with.

Up 5 Down 11

Walter T. on Oct 29, 2020 at 4:59 am

@TMYK :The last seven paragraphs clearly state the Liberal stance on the subject but, if you don't read the article you won't see that.
Geez I wonder maybe he did read the article.

Up 19 Down 4

Blacktoed Liberals on Oct 28, 2020 at 5:30 pm

Ah yes TMYK... The eternal Liberal Quandary... You have to wonder as we head into winter how many Liberals will lose their toes this year... With all the flip-flops they own and seem to have no problem wearing.

Up 52 Down 12

TMYK on Oct 28, 2020 at 4:02 pm

I think the Liberal's fake support for land use plans is worse than the Yukon Parties stance. At least the YP had the balls to say they were against the Peel Plan and not just freeze it. Silver knows that if the Dawson Regional Plan was adopted he would get kicked out of town so he took the Liberal approach of no stance at all.

Up 45 Down 10

Unsurprising on Oct 28, 2020 at 3:52 pm

That's the NDP way, quit.

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