Planning council wants in on Peel case action

The Yukon Land Use Planning Council says it could help the territory avoid future conflicts like the one over the Peel watershed if its role as a mediator of disputes is clarified and formalized.

The Yukon Land Use Planning Council says it could help the territory avoid future conflicts like the one over the Peel watershed if its role as a mediator of disputes is clarified and formalized.

The council has applied to Yukon court to be granted intervenor status in the appeal of last year’s Peel decision.

If they become an intervenor, the council would be allowed to make submissions to the court on how it should proceed.

The land use planning council has no position on who should win the case, said George Nassiopoulos, a member of the council.

“We’re not supporting one side or the other.”

Last summer’s court case was launched by First Nations and environmental groups who believed that the Yukon government overstepped its bounds when it overturned the Peel plan recommended by the planning commission and instituted its own, which was significantly more open to mining and other industrial development.

Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale sided with First Nations, and found that the Yukon government failed in its obligation to participate fully in the land use planning as outlined in land claims agreements with First Nations. He ruled that the government must consult First Nations and the public on the commission’s plan, and cannot make significant changes to that plan before implementing it.

The Yukon government has launched an appeal of that decisions. The Yukon Court of Appeal will hear the case in August.

The outcome for the Peel plan may have been different if the parties had sought advice from the planning council as an impartial and independent body, said Nassiopoulos.

“There is, I believe, a duty on the parties’ part to ask for and solicit advice from us, in terms of how to move ahead with some of these issues that we’ve encountered, particularly with the Peel.

“Clearly people perceived a long time ago that there would be issues, and that each party is going to have different perspectives. I believe that this council has been the place to act as a neutral body and as an advisory body to the two parties.

“The basic thing that we are looking for is clarity on the role that council is supposed to play, as it was defined within the (Umbrella Final Agreement), and what the responsibilities and duties of the parties to the agreement are with respect to the council.”

“We are asked to do a lot of things, which aren’t always clearly laid out in the UFA.

“Our hope is that these issues don’t have to go to court when they’re unresolved. I think with a sober, objective view from the council, whose purpose is essentially to protect the interests of the public in this – we think that we can contribute in a positive way to this process down the road.”

The chair of the land use planning council, Patrick Rouble, was the minister of Energy, Mines and Resources at key points in the Peel planning process that are issue in this case.

He has removed himself from involvement in this case, said Nassiopoulos.

“I want to make it absolutely clear that Mr. Rouble has recused himself from any of these discussions, and he has absolutely nothing to do with this case, and is not aware of any of the details of it.”

Land use planning in the territory is on hold until the Peel case is resolved.

Neither the Yukon government nor the First Nations support the council’s intervention in the Peel case.

Both sides argued at a court hearing this week that the council’s position would be a distraction from the primary matters that make up the dispute.

Veale is expected to make a ruling on the application on June 9.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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