Selfishness is not a principle

Open letter to MLA Brad Cathers: Mr. Cathers, I recently heard you state in the media that we must move on from the Peel River watershed controversy, that we must stop letting it "polarize" Yukoners. Polarize Yukoners?

Open letter to MLA Brad Cathers:

Mr. Cathers, I recently heard you state in the media that we must move on from the Peel River watershed controversy, that we must stop letting it “polarize” Yukoners.

Polarize Yukoners? Come on! I think it safe to say a large majority of us are in favour of full protection for the Peel. The only polarization on this issue is from a small minority that includes yourself and your Yukon Party government.

I would challenge you to a binding referendum on that, but I know that will never happen because you know what the results would be.

I have trouble understanding why you and your party have exhibited such stalwart opposition to a plan with such foresight and consideration for our descendants.

I think we can both agree that we live in the best part of the best country on the planet. We are a small population abiding in a most beautiful, functioning wilderness and up to our eyeballs in natural resources. It doesn’t get much better than this.

I like to think of what we have as a tremendous inheritance. We are wealthy beyond words. And to not put something away so that our children can share in this wealth is nothing less than short-sighted and selfish.

Our economy is doing fine. Mining is booming. Just this morning the Fraser Institute, that enigmatic cauldron of capitalist and right-wing thought, reported that mining companies find the Yukon a safe and appealing place to invest.

Last year, Simon Mervyn, chief of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation, wrote a most eloquent and important letter to the media that relates to this point.

In his opening paragraph, he stated: “Anyone who thinks protecting the Peel watershed will affect mining investment in the Yukon hasn’t been to Na-Cho Nyak Dun territory in recent years. Our lands department is being run off its feet by pressure from mining companies to explore and develop in our territory ….

“We also have assurances from major companies currently operating in our traditional territory, including Golden Predator, Victoria Gold and Alexco that their future opportunities will not be adversely affected by full protection of the Peel River watershed.”

So, it would seem even the mining companies in question do not have a problem with “full” protection.

The Peel should be thought of as an RRSP for our children. An RRSP is something we set aside for the future because we have more than enough already to facilitate a comfortable life. And, as I previously stated, we are wealthy beyond words.

Perhaps there could be some non-invasive uses within a protected Peel, but that should not be our first consideration. Even if the only activities within the Peel are traditional First Nation uses, that should be fine. An RRSP is not something that is tampered with.

Development of 20 per cent of the Peel is completely unacceptable. In all likelihood, it will lead to more development and, at best, leave a fractured landscape and a greatly diminished inheritance for our children. For this to work, the Peel must have 100 per cent protection.

I ask you, Brad, and all Yukoners, to consider the value of the Peel 100 or 200 years from now – perhaps even 500 years hence. Of course, it’s difficult to place a value on something that far off in the future, especially when we already know it is priceless, but, undoubtedly, our descendants will be eternally grateful.

If they choose to extract resources, they will do so with noninvasive methods beyond our imagination. And I have no doubt, with the way the planet’s resources are being depleted and unbroken wild places are disappearing, the pristine piece of unparalleled wilderness that is the Peel will be cherished and protected as a precious gem. Priceless!

Simon Mervyn concluded his letter with: “Our environment is not for sale and we expect those who profit from it now not to do so at the expense of our generations of grandchildren.”

Meeting our own needs in ways that do not compromise future generations from meeting their own should be a founding principle in the development of all resource-extraction legislation.

Your government will most likely be remembered as one that facilitated a healthy and robust economy. You now have the opportunity to also be remembered as the government that had the unselfish foresight to invest in a most precious inheritance, in a time of plenty, for a future generation.

Sorry, Brad, but you’re a majority government (as much as a government elected with only 40 per cent of the voting public can be called a majority) with a minority opinion.

It is time to stop the polarization and get on board with the rest of us. Let’s do the right thing for all Yukoners now and in the distant future and give the Peel the 100 per cent protection it deserves.

Jim Borisenko

Tagish Lake