Water is dynamic and knows no borders, as it cycles continuously from earth to ocean to atmosphere shaping our geology, influencing our climate, and maintaining all life. Water is not separate from the ecosystem, from land or from people.
Since time immemorial, water has had deep spiritual meaning for people living off the land. Traditional knowledge and cultural principles influence how water resources are valued, and describe our responsibility today for future generations.
The history of how Yukon’s waters have been used has been riddled with contradictions. There is the deep respect and veneration, of shared management and responsibilities, which is the First Nations’ relationship to the water.
Chapter 14.1.1 of the Umbrella Final Agreement speaks of the need to “maintain the water of the Yukon in a natural condition while providing for its sustainable use.”
But Yukon’s history is also one of wasteful and destructive water use. We are still cleaning up hundreds of contaminated sites borne of a different time.
The Yukon Party government’s draft water strategy has a clear priority: to ensure availability of water to industry and other users. It’s not a water strategy – it’s business as usual.
This is hardly surprising given the Yukon Party government’s less-than-stellar track record on water management issues.
The Yukon NDP Official Opposition believes that the sustainable use of water now and for future generations depends on understanding the natural condition of water, creating quality and quantity thresholds for healthy ecosystem water needs, and from this, determining what can sustainably be used.
Water should be managed according to science-based standards that are both enforceable and responsive to ecosystem cumulative impacts.
We must not repeat the mistakes we see next door to us. In northeastern B.C., just next to Watson Lake, it is obvious there is not adequate protection for water faced with the pressures of shale gas extraction. The speed and intensity of fracking development has overwhelmed both watersheds and the agencies and regulatory structures meant to direct and oversee their management.
The Yukon NDP Official Opposition believes our clean, fresh water must be managed as a public trust, not as a disposable commodity. Clean water is a human right, and it is our collective responsibility to ensure the same for future generations.
MLA for Takhini-Kopper King
Yukon NDP Official Opposition