Courts allow cameras inside Peel trial

The Yukon Supreme Court is allowing part of next week's Peel River watershed trial to be video recorded. It's the first time cameras have been allowed in a Yukon courtroom in living memory.

The Yukon Supreme Court is allowing part of next week’s Peel River watershed trial to be video recorded.

It’s the first time cameras have been allowed in a Yukon courtroom in living memory.

The application was made on behalf of all the plaintiffs in the case, by the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

Justice Ron Veale agreed to allow the first two-and-half hours of day one to be recorded.

Karen Baltgailis, with the Yukon Conservation Society – one of the other plaintiffs – said everyone recognizes how historic this trial will be.

“This is obviously a high profile, precedent-setting case and the plaintiffs in this case have an interest in documenting it, basically for posterity,” she said.

Andrea Bailey, legal officer with the supreme and territorial courts, said that, as far as anyone can remember, the recording will be a first.

“It seems to be the first time that there’s ever been a video recording of a court proceeding,” she said.

A number of the final details still need to be worked out before the trial starts, Bailey said.

That includes things like where the single camera will be located, how the footage can be used after the fact and what specifically can be recorded.

“It makes sure that the camera can’t focus on paperwork on counsels’ desk in such a manner that it can be read, that the recording is not going to capture conversations between clients and counsel, for example,” Bailey said.

Baltgailis said no decisions have been made around what will happen to the footage after it is recorded.

“When CPAWS made the application there was not a specific use in mind,” she said. “Except that we thought it was important to have archival footage.”

The case comes before the Yukon Supreme Court on Monday. The trial is expected to last a week.

The Nacho Nyak Dun and Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nations, together with the Yukon Conservation Society and Yukon’s chapter of CPAWS, are suing the government because it rejected the planning commission’s recommendation for the watershed.

The recommended plan would have banned new staking and road building in 80 per cent of the region.

Instead, the Yukon government approved a land use plan for the Peel that would only ban staking in 29 per cent of the area.

The legal battle surrounding the Peel has received national and international attention. Court staff are preparing for a particularly large crowd.

The trial will be broadcast onto video screens in a second courtroom to allow more people to watch.

Meanwhile, activists across the territory are planning events to mark the trial.

A blog and a daily audio podcast are being organized. On the first day, from 12:30 until 1 p.m., a silent vigil is scheduled to take place on the courthouse steps.

A fire circle will be taking place each day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. behind the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre.

On July 10, a public event, dubbed Voices of the Peel – Together Today for our Children Tomorrow, will take place at the Kwanlin Dun Cultural Centre at 7 p.m. It includes elders and youth telling stories, music, images and dancing.

In Dawson, daily prayer circles will take place from noon to 1 p.m. at the Danoja Zho Cultural Centre.

Motorcyclist Don Curry is fundraising for the case by riding from Portland, Oregon to Inuvik, N.W.T. He is scheduled to arrive in Dawson on the 7th. Curry plans on riding this last portion of the trip – which travels along the Dempster Highway – standing up.

Contact Ashley Joannou at