Peel First Nations, UFA ignored

I would like to respond to recent letters to the editor by Mike Power and George Dimsdale about the Peel watershed.

I would like to respond to recent letters to the editor by Mike Power and George Dimsdale about the Peel watershed.

It is telling that neither of the letter writers acknowledged the interests of First Nations in the Peel watershed and the development of the Peel plan.

A major difference we have with Messrs. Power and Dimsdale, not to mention the Yukon Party government, is that the Yukon Conservation Society views the Umbrella Final Agreement to be more than just guidelines. Rather, it is a constitutionally protected document that lays out clearly the obligations of the parties.

It must be recalled that the First Nations gave up aboriginal title to their traditional territories in return for a say in how they are to be managed, in other words the regional land use planning process.

Many Yukoners joined the First Nations and conservation groups in fully participating in the constitutionally mandated Peel planning process. Characterizing this participation as subversion is inaccurate.

Mr. Powers describes the Peel planning commission as unelected and unaccountable. The members were appointed in accordance with the UFA, and half the members were appointed by the territorial government.

It is a genius of the UFA that it creates several bodies of Yukoners to provide advice and make formal recommendations to governments. This process has, in fact, vastly democratized decision-making in the Yukon.

Thanks to the UFA, you and I have a greatly enhanced ability to contribute and participate, compared to folks in the provinces and jurisdictions without final agreements like the Yukon’s.

Far from being an unaccountable body, the Peel planning commission has taken into account the views of all persons who contributed. They gave a full accounting of their actions in the recommended plan and then took the feedback from everyone, including Yukon government, and wrote the final recommended plan.

In contrast, the Yukon Party government’s recent actions can in fact be seen as unaccountable. They seem to be doing land use planning outside of the UFA-mandated planning process.

Most of the public responses, and certainly that of YCS, were not remotely motivated by commercial interests. This cannot be said of those promoting industrial development.

The plan as written does allow continued mineral exploration in about a quarter of the area and is reserving judgment in another quarter. Thus a balance is struck – about 55 per cent for full protection.

About 40 per cent of Yukon voters voted for the Yukon Party. It is unknown how many of them wanted to see the Peel plan thrown out.

Voter turnout was about 60 per cent, thus only 40 per cent of 60 per cent of Yukoners actually voted Yukon Party, which works out to about 25 per cent of all Yukoners. Hardly a majority.

Sebastian Jones

Yukon Conservation Society