These Peel watershed consultations are a sham

These Peel watershed consultations are a sham The Yukon government "consultation" on the Peel plan is a fraud on three counts: it is insincere, it is manipulative, and it cannot fulfill its legal obligations as it pretends to do. The Yukon government co

The Yukon government “consultation” on the Peel plan is a fraud on three counts: it is insincere, it is manipulative, and it cannot fulfill its legal obligations as it pretends to do.

The Yukon government come-on ad blares: “We want to hear from you.” Really? They already know what Yukoners think. They’ve had six long years of an open public planning process with extensive consultation and massive public input from all sectors of society. What part did they miss?

The problem is that they did not like what they heard. Cabinet has said in effect: “We understand the public interest better than the public does, so we will decide what is good for them.” On what basis they claim this wisdom is unclear.

The best way to whimp out on public consultation is to conduct an “open house.” It maintains the appearance but provides none of the real function of consultation, which is an open exchange of ideas among the public and the proponents.

Governments with sketchy or controversial proposals hate open, active public meetings where citizens speak freely to each other as well as to the “suits.” A public meeting allows citizens to form a critical mass where they actually debate and learn from each other. Governments who are trying to float something by will avoid this risk if they can.

This terror was manifest at the geoscience forum when respected Fort MacPherson elder Charlie Snowshoe attempted to address Resources Minister Brad Cathers. Cathers wanted none of it, stating he was not there for questions. In short: I am here to tell you … I am not interested in what you have to say, no more than I want to hear what my staff have to say.

Manipulation is evident in the material presented by the government. The real meaning of the “plans” written by territorial bureaucrats is glossed over with misleading green shades and labels misusing the word “wilderness.” They deliberately obscure the fact that these plans would allow roads virtually anywhere in the Peel watershed. The meat and the careful compromises of the Peel commission’s plan are not touched on.

Finally, and sadly, after this charade, the Yukon government will still not have fulfilled its legal obligation under the Umbrella Final Agreement to consult about the final recommended plan. The UFA instructs the government to consult on the final recommended plan before it rejects or modifies it.

The Yukon government has got the cart firmly before the horse. Worse, it has muddied the consultation by interjecting its own “plans,” developed entirely outside of the legal UFA planning process.

This should alarm you, no matter what party you support and no matter what you think about the balance between development and wilderness in the Peel. Legal process is a serious matter that binds all of us. Especially government.

David Loeks

Whitehorse