Rouble won’t explain why he snubbed chiefs

Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Patrick Rouble won't explain why he cancelled a meeting with two First Nation chiefs at the last minute last week.

Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Patrick Rouble won’t explain why he cancelled a meeting with two First Nation chiefs at the last minute last week.

Several interview requests have been ignored and the cabinet’s spokesperson is on vacation.

Tr’ondek Hwech’in Chief Eddie Taylor and Na-cho Nyak Dun Chief Simon Mervyn have not received an explanation from Rouble about why he bailed on a scheduled 9 a.m. meeting Thursday morning.

They were to discuss the controversial Peel Watershed land-use plan.

The chiefs were met by an assistant at the door who informed them the meeting was off.

They were told Rouble was busy, Mervyn said last week.

“We’re deeply insulted,” he said.

It was the second meeting in a week suddenly cancelled by a cabinet minister.

Mervyn and Taylor were supposed to meet with Community Services Minister Archie Lang on Thursday afternoon to discuss jobs for First Nations along the Dempster Highway corridor.

But they received a phone call on Tuesday informing them Lang had to cancel.

The reason?

Lang couldn’t meet them without Premier Dennis Fentie, and Fentie’s schedule was problematic, said Mervyn.

No alternate date was suggested.

There was no written confirmation of either cancellation, which is customary between important offices.

On Thursday, an interview request left with cabinet officials did not result in a response. A follow-up phone call on Monday was similarly ignored.

The chiefs are worried the Yukon government is backpedalling on its commitment to the Peel Watershed land-use plan.

The Yukon government and four First Nation governments, including the Tr’ondek Hwech’in and the Na-cho Nyak Dun, have until December 15 to deliver written responses to the Peel Watershed Planning Commission’s final recommendation.

The report was five years in the making and it advised the governments to protect over 80 per cent of the wild, roadless watershed.

But the Yukon government and the First Nation governments are far from agreement on what to do with that advice.

The First Nation governments have held fast to their public calls for 100 per cent protection for the watershed.

The Yukon government, though it publicly claims to have no position on the commission’s recommendation while the process is ongoing, betrayed that neutrality when Fentie was caught suppressing pro-conservation documents in the Environment Department from reaching the commission.

Thursday’s cancelled meeting was requested by the two chiefs because the Yukon government hadn’t yet submitted a position on the recommendation, and Yukon officials were refusing to schedule a meeting of all five governments’ liaisons on the Peel, known as the Senior Liaison Committee.

Mervyn and Taylor want the Yukon government’s position on the commission’s recommendations so they can enter the negotiations on the land-use plan with an inkling of what the Yukon government wants out of the Peel.

The Yukon government has long been aware of their call for 100 per cent protection of the watershed, the chiefs say.

The December 15 deadline was set in a signed letter of understanding agreed to by all five parties in February.

Negotiations over the commission’s recommendations are supposed to happen after all five governments submit their initial positions in writing.

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

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