First Nations and environmental groups file documents in Peel appeal

The appellants in the Peel watershed case have filed their written argument in the Supreme Court of Canada.

The appellants in the Peel watershed case have filed their written argument in the Supreme Court of Canada.

The paperwork was filed Oct. 19, according to a release from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation, CPAWS Yukon and the Yukon Conservation Society.

It’s a major step towards the Supreme Court of Canada hearing scheduled for next March.

The Peel case has been in front of one court or another for three years.

Last year, the Yukon Court of Appeal ruled “Yukon undermined reconciliation by failing to honour the letter and spirit of its treaty obligations” when the government released its plan for the 68,000 square kilometres of mostly undisturbed wilderness.

That part of the ruling was similar to one originally made by the Yukon Supreme Court.

The government plan for the Peel was dramatically different from recommendations by the Peel land use planning commission, which urged 80 per cent of the watershed be protected from development. The government’s plan protected only 29 per cent from new mineral staking.

Where the courts differed was on the remedy for the Yukon government’s breach of the land use planning provisions in the Final Agreements.

The Yukon Supreme Court originally ruled the Yukon government could not make modifications to the plan that had not been discussed in the original planning process.

The court of appeal ordered the process sent back to the earlier stage.

The First Nations and environmental groups say going back to an earlier stage would essentially allow the Yukon government to advance entirely new modifications to the plan.

“We appreciate the opportunity to have our case heard by the Supreme Court of Canada; their final decision will provide certainty for the land-use-planning-approval processes in the territory and set a precedent for the country,” Chief Roberta Joseph of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation said in a statement.

“We hope their decision will reverse the harm made by the court of appeal and ensure the intent of our agreements is upheld.”

The Council of Yukon First Nations will apply for intervenor status in support of the appellants, according to the statement. It’s expected the Gwich’in Tribal Council will do the same thing.

The Yukon government now has two months to submit its response.

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

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