Historic Peel trial begins

The trial to determine the fate of the Peel watershed began this morning. The public gallery was filled with chiefs, elders, bureaucrats and reporters.

The trial to determine the fate of the Peel watershed began this morning.

The public gallery was filled with chiefs, elders, bureaucrats and reporters.

Members of the public were forced into a nearby courtroom to watch by live feed. Seats filled spaces both in front of and behind the bench, with standing room on the sides and in the back.

The trial has garnered attention in national and international media in recent weeks.

At the heart of the issue is how much control First Nations retain over the management of Crown lands after signing land claims agreements with Canada and the Yukon.

When First Nations gave up aboriginal title to 97 per cent of the watershed, they gained the right to participate fully in decisions about how that land is used, argued Thomas Berger, counsel for the plaintiffs.

Berger commissioned the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline Inquiry in the 1970s and is a famed aboriginal rights lawyer.

The plan recommended by the Peel Watershed Land Use Planning Commission, which arose from a constitutionally-protected process described in the Umbrella

Final Agreement, should be declared approved and binding on all parties, said Berger.

That land use planning process took seven years and recommended that 80 per cent of the Peel watershed be off limits to new development, at least for now.

The Yukon government didn’t like that outcome, and drafted its own plan, calling for protection in just 29 per cent of the area.

The Tr’ondek Hwech’in, the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun and local conservation groups launched the suit.

The Northwest Territories-based Gwitchin Tribal Council stands as an intervenor in the case.

John Hunter, legal counsel for the Yukon government, argued in his brief introductory statement that the Yukon government maintains ultimate authority over the land in question, just as First Nations retain authority over their settlement lands.

The plaintiffs want the final recommended plan to be declared as law as a remedy to the dispute.

If the court does nothing, the government’s plan will remain in effect, as it is today.

Justice Ron Veale suggested that if other alternate remedies exist, the plaintiffs would be wise to present them.

If the court were to rule some third option that had never been suggested by the plaintiffs, such as sending the plan back to the planning commission, counsel for the

Yukon government would think he was “way out in outer space,” Veale reasoned.

The proceedings are scheduled to continue through Friday this week.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at jronson@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

In a Feb. 17 statement, the City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology used for emergency response. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Three words could make all the difference in an emergency

City of Whitehorse announced it had adopted the what3words location technology

Jesse Whelen, Blood Ties Four Directions harm reduction councillor, demonstrates how the organization tests for fentanyl in drugs in Whitehorse on May 12, 2020. The Yukon Coroner’s Service has confirmed three drug overdose deaths and one probable overdose death since mid-January. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Three overdose deaths caused by “varying levels of cocaine and fentanyl,” coroner says

Heather Jones says overdoses continue to take lives at an “alarming rate”

Wyatt's World for Feb. 24, 2021.
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Feb. 24, 2021.

Approximately 30 Yukoners protest for justice outside the Whitehorse courthouse on Feb. 22, while a preliminary assault hearing takes place inside. The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society, based in Watson Lake, put out a call to action over the weekend. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Courthouse rally denounces violence against Indigenous women

The Whitehorse rally took place after the Liard Aboriginal Women’s Society put out a call to action

Then Old Crow MLA Darius Elias speak’s in the community centre in Old Crow in 2016. Elias died in Whitehorse on Feb. 17. (Maura Forrest/Yukon News file)
Condolences shared for former Vuntut Gwitchin MLA Darius Elias

Elias is remembered as a proud parent, hockey fan and politican

Susie Rogan is a veteran musher with 14 years of racing experience and Yukon Journey organizer. (Yukon Journey Facebook)
Yukon Journey mushers begin 255-mile race

Eleven mushers are participating in the race from Pelly Crossing to Whitehorse

Yukon Energy in Whitehorse on Aug. 4, 2020. A site on Robert Service Way near the Alaska Highway has been selected as the future home of Yukon Energy’s energy storage project. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Site selected for Yukon Energy battery project

Planned to be in service by the end of 2022

The Yukon government and the Yukon First Nations Chamber of Commerce have signed a letter of understanding under the territory’s new procurement policy. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
First Nation business registry planned under new procurement system

Letter of understanding signals plans to develop registry, boost procurement opportunities

US Consul General Brent Hardt during a wreath-laying ceremony at Peace Arch State Park in September 2020. Hardt said the two federal governments have been working closely on the issue of appropriate border measures during the pandemic. (John Kageorge photo)
New U.S. consul general says countries working closely on COVID-19 border

“I mean, the goal, obviously, is for both countries to get ahead of this pandemic.”

Legislative assembly on the last day of the fall sitting in Whitehorse on Nov. 22, 2018. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Start of spring sitting announced

The Yukon legislature is set to resume for the spring sitting on… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse City Council this week

(Submitted)
History Hunter: Kwanlin Dün — a book of history, hardship and hope

Dǎ Kwǎndur Ghày Ghàkwadîndur: Our Story in Our Words is published by… Continue reading

(File photo)
RCMP arrest Saskatchewan murder suspect

Yukon RCMP have arrested a man suspected of attempted murder from outside… Continue reading

Most Read