Enough is enough
When will special interest groups stop highjacking the land claims process in order to circumvent due public process?
The Yukon land base has seen many changes in the past 30 years in the form of the creation of three National Parks, four territorial parks, and 13 special management areas (SMAs created under the Yukon First Nation land claims process).
Further areas withdrawn from disposition include the large “North Yukon” Interim Protected Order in Privy Council that was designed to temporarily set aside a large portion of northern Yukon until the finalization of the Inuvialuit Final Agreement and the ratification of the Vuntut Gwitchin Final Agreement.
This area now contains two contiguous national parks, two special management areas (Old Crow Flats and the Yukon North Slope management area) and a territorial park – yet the remaining land, outside these specially designated areas, remains restricted under the Order in Council which has not been lifted.
The vast majority (16/20) of these parks and special management areas were negotiated behind closed doors and the creation of these areas did not go through rigorous public process that ensures all stakeholders have equal opportunity for input that affects the outcome of the proposals.
Due public process was hampered by the fact that government was obligated to negotiate special management areas under Chapter 10 of the Umbrella Final Agreement and had to consider settling land claims as a whole rather than just look at each proposed park/SMA as a separate application and determine if each one would stand on its own merits or not.
Now there is land-use planning coming out of Chapter 11 of the Umbrella Final Agreement of land claims.
The objectives include minimizing land-use conflicts, promoting cultural values, including aboriginal people in effective land-use planning and ensuring social, cultural, economic and environmental policies are applied to the management, protection and use of land, water and resources in concert to ensure sustainable development.
Land-use planning does not mean park creation or the ability to stop all exploration and development within the planning region.
We have public park-creation mechanisms already in place in the Yukon (just like any other jurisdiction in Canada), namely national and territorial parks acts with lengthy review processes and public consultations, which have to include all stakeholders, and Canadians in general, rather than a small board of folks contrived out of an interpretation of the land claims process.
There are no checks and balances here as there is no mandate to consider all interests in creating a land-use plan, and Yukon residents do not have a say until a plan is proposed and it is often considered too late to change it by then.
The latest Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission proposal is an outrageous attempt at creating further huge blocks of land closed to development in this territory under the auspices of the land claims process. We, as Yukoners, have been conditioned to accept large areas of the Yukon designated without our input as the land claims process was closed to the public and now the Land Use Planning Commission continues to propose further land-use restrictions without our input, even though land claim final agreements in these regions are finalized.
Let’s get back to a balanced public way of making any land-use decisions, where all of us who choose to live and work in this wonderful place can have real input and stop allowing monumental decisions to be made by a small group of individuals.