What, exactly, is ‘benign legality’?

The Yukon Environmental Act states that a State of the Environment report “shall” be drafted every three years.

The Yukon Environmental Act states that a State of the Environment report “shall” be drafted every three years.

It’s an independent evaluation on the state of the territory’s wild lands.

It was written into the legislation to present baseline information.

It is supposed to give voice to First Nation traditional knowledge, to establish indicators of environmental degradation or improvement, and to identify emerging problems, including long-term and cumulative effects.

It helps legislators plan and, hopefully, ward off environmental disaster, or enhance successes.

Why?

Because the long-term health of the Yukon economy is dependent on the environment, according to the law.

The last report was delivered in 2002.

That means the last baseline study was begun in 1999, eight years ago.

Since then, we’ve learned about extensive cancer rates and water pollution in the Champagne area.

We’ve also discovered lead from the Faro mine in caribou, ptarmigan and lichen throughout a massive contamination zone that runs the length of the Tintina Trench to Pelly Crossing.

Global warming has accelerated, melting permafrost in Dawson City and sea ice in the high Arctic.

As a result of rising sea levels, Herschel Island may be flooded out of existence.

A hardrock copper mine is about to go into production near Minto.

Fish stocks in Watson Lake have collapsed.

Pollution from massive industrial development in China is being blown around the globe, and hence into the Yukon.

The Fortymile caribou herd has crossed the Yukon River for the first time in decades.

The population of the Porcupine caribou herd has dropped significantly. Scientists still haven’t pinned down why.

These are just a few examples of environmental issues compiled with about 10 minutes thought.

They are all important. They deserve study.

A State of the Environment report is an important tool.

Over the past two years, Environment Minister Dennis Fentie has put $31,900 in the budget to draft one. Nothing has been produced. Fentie will not say if the money was spent.

He repeatedly brags about his environmental record.

However, beyond vague promises, his sole contribution has been to buy a handful of fuel-efficient cars for the government’s fleet.

The next State of the Environment report is now two years late.

By not producing the document, Fentie is breaking the law, a point made by Liberal Darius Elias in the legislature this week.

Fentie calls this a “benign legality.”

Curious words from a minister who swore an oath to uphold the territory’s laws. (RM)

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