Yukon News

Vuntut Gwitchin join Peel appeal

Jacqueline Ronson Wednesday May 27, 2015

Ian Stewart/Yukon News

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Hikers rest at Mount MacDonald, near the Snake River in the Peel watershed in 2013.

The Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation has joined the Tr’ondek Hwech’in, the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun and conservation groups in their legal battle with the Yukon government over the fate of the Peel watershed.

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale struck down the Yukon government’s plan for the Peel after a court case last summer, ruling that it did not follow the process outlined in final agreements with First Nations.

The Yukon government is now appealing that decision. The case will be heard in August.

Vuntut Gwitchin joined the other First Nations as respondents in the appeal after a court hearing on Monday.

“The decision to file as respondents in this case was not taken lightly,” according to news release sent by the First Nation late last week.

“Our government has concerns regarding Yukon’s conduct during the later stages of the Peel planning process. We will continue to be vigilant to protect the integrity of our final and self-government agreements, including the regional land use planning provisions.”

The First Nation had previously said that it wouldn’t join the case because its traditional territory within the Peel only accounts for three per cent of the planning region, and the Yukon government’s plan for those areas was substantially close enough to what the planning commission had recommended.

Since that time there has been a leadership change in the First Nation. Joe Linklater opted against running for a sixth term as chief, and Roger Kyikavichik was elected to replace him.

The Gwich’in Tribal Council had its application approved to act as an intervenor in the appeal.

The First Nation will put forward a similar submission to the original court case, said lawyer Jeff Langlois, who represents the council.

“It’s a really important case for our client. They were very happy with Justice Veale’s decision, but obviously there’s a lot of nervousness that comes into this appeal.”

The council will support the position put forward by the other First Nations and the original judgement by Ron Veale, and it will also urge the court not to make a ruling on the question of adequate consultation, which is not at issue in this case, said Langlois.

Such a ruling could inadvertently and unnecessarily thwart potential further legal action in the case, he said.

The Yukon Land Use Planning Council also applied to act as an intervenor in the appeal.

Both the Yukon government and the respondents opposed the motion. The judge said he will make a decision on the issue in the coming weeks.

The planning council could not be reached for comment by press time.

In the legislature on Monday, Premier Darrell Pasloski said he reached out to First Nations after Veale’s ruling to negotiate a settlement in the case.

“As premier, I spoke to the chiefs of the First Nations, our lawyers spoke to the First Nation lawyers and our government staff spoke with First Nation staff. In all cases, the answer to our offer was no,” he said.

“We fully understand their right to make this decision, but it was a disappointment to us, because we would prefer to not be in court. We would prefer to work together to find solutions as partners, as we have done in so many other cases.”

Gill Cracknell, executive director of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon, said the plaintiffs did not feel negotiating a settlement would be the correct response to Veale’s judgement.

CPAWS Yukon was a plaintiff in the case, and Cracknell also joined the plaintiffs as an individual.

“We were all in complete agreement that it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss any proposals to interrupt the conclusion of the process as laid down by the court.”

Veale had ruled that the government did not complete the planning process outlined in the final agreements, and that it must do so.

The correct next step would be for the Yukon government to consult the public as laid out in Veale’s decision, not negotiate behind closed doors with First Nations, said Cracknell.

“The judge’s order ruled that was the law,” she said. “It affects the interests of all Yukoners as well as the First Nations.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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11 Comments

you're so vain wrote:
11:10am Friday June 5, 2015

Will there be cameras allowed in the appeal hearing? Because if so, Veale’s going to need some new corduroys.

Smith wrote:
3:13pm Saturday May 30, 2015

@yukonlibby

VGG’s Chief & council held a public meeting specifically about the peel law suit to get guidance from their citizens.

yukonlibby wrote:
3:11pm Friday May 29, 2015

Since VGFN elected a new chief and council this year it would seem that it’s the voice of those folks directing this as opposed to the citizens. Under Chief Linklater there was no appetite to sign on to this lawsuit. So once again, even in the case of this FN, we don’t really know that that’s what the citizens want or that that’s what chief and council want…

ross phillips wrote:
12:16pm Thursday May 28, 2015

Darius? Oh Darius?  Will you be able to tear yourself away from all your mindless social media posting and be a leader on this one? Seems like there’s trouble a brewin…

ProScience Greenie wrote:
10:27am Thursday May 28, 2015

Too bad we couldn’t start from scratch with the Peel LUP and this time do it without a former industry lobbyist as chairperson and with less Outside influence and money.

lyle wrote:
10:26am Thursday May 28, 2015

Protect the peal

Moose wrote:
10:17am Thursday May 28, 2015

It will be interesting to hear what Darius Elias thinks of this as the respresentative from Old Crow and now also a member of the Yukon Lawsuit Party.  It would seem very odd if he is re-elected by the same people going to court with his government.

Rorex1983 wrote:
10:02am Thursday May 28, 2015

@ Bobby Bitman

Don’t’ get your hopes up Bobby. This is simply First Nations playing politics, why put everything in the middle when you can wait and see how thing play out before playing the Ace up your sleeve. This is clearly covered by this comment by the First Nation’s Lawyer.

“and it will also urge the court not to make a ruling on the question of adequate consultation ...Such a ruling could inadvertently and unnecessarily thwart potential further legal action in the case”

Rorex1983 wrote:
9:54am Thursday May 28, 2015

So obvious a consultation with the public and effected groups has been done, this was the work done by the Peel commission. What Veale is saying is, because that recommendation wasn’t used the consultation has no value. I disagree with that, the difference between the government’s plan and the Commission’s is the 55% in supposed FN historical site. I say supposed as no application has been made to qualify them as historical sites.

So the real question that you should be hearing in the Court is does the FN have the right to create their own Historical Sites without the use of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada. This is a rather big deal because if they do then essentially any land in settled traditional territories can be deemed Historical Sites and protected from development.

If applied for and approved these historical sites would be the largest in Canada with a combined size of 42,350 km2. The current largest recognized historical site is Grizzly Bear Mountain and Scented Grass Hills in NWT with a size of 5,587 km2. Meaning of course that these new sites would be over 7 times the size of PEI, and more than 75% the size of Nova Scotia. So I guess the question really becomes can a province be a historical site?

Bunjee girl wrote:
9:48am Thursday May 28, 2015

bobby bitman - I’m also fed up being ignored (quite literally in a few cases) by the Yukon Government. But one thing to remember - the land use planning powers in the Final Agreements (the basis for most of the recent court decisions) specifically states that plans are for the benefit of all Yukoners. Too many think the Final Agreements only benefit First Nations, when the intent (and wording) is far more expansive and includes all Yukoners. At least that’s my understanding.

bobby bitman wrote:
5:21pm Wednesday May 27, 2015

It’s about time someone spoke the obvious.  That non-FN people also have a pony in this race.  We are routinely shoved aside while the interests of resource extraction and the interests of First Nations are negotiated or fought for.

“Gill Cracknell joined the plaintiffs as an individual.

“it wouldn’t be appropriate to discuss any proposals to interrupt the conclusion of the process as laid down by the court.”

  The correct next step would be for the Yukon government to consult the public as laid out in Veale’s decision, not negotiate behind closed doors with First Nations, said Cracknell.

“It affects the interests of all Yukoners as well as the First Nations.”

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