Supreme Court to decide on Peel appeal

The country’s top court is set to announce on Thursday morning whether it will hear an appeal brought by Yukon First Nations and conservation groups about the Peel watershed land use plan.

The country’s top court is set to announce on Thursday morning whether it will hear an appeal brought by Yukon First Nations and conservation groups about the Peel watershed land use plan.

The case stems from the Yukon government’s decision to go against the final recommended land use plan for the watershed.

The 68,000-square kilometre area of Yukon wilderness is in the traditional territory of the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, the Vuntut Gwitchin, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in and Gwich’in Tribal Council, based in the Northwest Territories.

In 2014, the government unveiled its final land use plan for the watershed that saw 71 per cent of it open for staking.

By comparison, the planning commission’s recommended plan, developed over years of consultation with First Nations and the government, called for only 20 per cent of the remote region to be open to development.

In December 2014, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale quashed the government’s plan. The government, he ruled, couldn’t introduce changes to the final plan that hadn’t been discussed at any earlier stages of the process.

Last year, the Yukon Court of Appeal partially sided with Veale but ordered the government to go back to an earlier step of the consultation. That could give the Yukon government a chance to press ahead with its plans for the Peel, after conducting adequate consultation.

“Yukon undermined reconciliation by failing to honour the letter and spirit of its treaty obligations,” the court ruled.

The First Nations took issue with the court of appeal’s remedy and want it changed back to what Justice Veale ordered.

“It is essentially giving them another kick at the can,” said Jeff Langlois, lawyer for the Gwich’in Tribal Council, about the remedy.

“How does that advance reconciliation between the parties?”

The Gwich’in Tribal Council is the largest landowner in the Peel watershed.

It didn’t bring the legal action but got intervenor status, basically supporting the other First Nations’ case.

The appropriate remedy is to implement the final recommended plan, Langlois said.

Both Veale and the court of appeal ruled the government introduced changes to the plan without consulting First Nations.

If the Supreme Court of Canada refuses to hear the appeal, it would then be up to the Yukon government to release a new recommended land use plan.

It would have to consult with First Nations before issuing a final plan.

And even once the final recommended plan is adopted, there are ways it could be modified, Langlois noted.

“It’s not like it’s locked in for a million years,” he said.

“The final recommended plan has procedures to amend it.”

If the court decides to hear the case, it will take at least six months before a hearing can be scheduled, said Langlois.

Contact Pierre Chauvin at

pierre.chauvin@yukon-news.com

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

Just Posted

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: Another election, another anomaly

Monday’s “double-tie” election is generating some free publicity for the Yukon as Outside news agencies scramble to find someone to interview.

A cyclist rides along the Millenium Trail in downtown Whitehorse on a frigid Feb. 9. Whitehorse city council has passed the first two readings of an e-bike bylaw that would designate how e-bike riders can use city trails. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
First two readings passed on Whitehorse e-bike bylaw

Delegate calls on city to consider age restrictions and further regulations

Whitehorse City Hall at its Steele Street entrance. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Change of plans approved for city hall

Project would see 1966 city hall demolished

A city map shows the property at 107 Range Road. The zoning is now in place for developers to proceed with plans for a Dairy Queen drive-thru. If plans proceed on schedule the new restaurant is anticipated to open in October. (Cyrstal Schick/Yukon News)
October opening eyed for Dairy Queen

Will depend on everything going according to plan

Crystal Schick/Yukon News Whitehorse International Airport in Whitehorse on May 6, 2020.
NAV CANADA suspends review for Whitehorse airport traffic control

NAV CANADA announced on April 15 that it is no longer considering… Continue reading

A bulldozer levels piles of garbage at the Whitehorse landfill in January 2012. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)
Rural dump closures and tipping fees raise concern from small communities

The government has said the measures are a cost-cutting necessity

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at city council matters for the week of April 12

Joel Krahn/joelkran.com Hikers traverse the Chilkoot Trail in September 2015. Alaska side.
The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer

The Canadian side of the Chilkoot Trail will open for summer Parks… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: Hands of Hope, the quilt of poppies

Toilets are important Ed. note: Hands of Hope is a Whitehorse-based non-profit… Continue reading

École Whitehorse Elementary Grade 7 students Yumi Traynor and Oscar Wolosewich participated in the Civix Student Vote in Whitehorse on April 12. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)
Yukon Student Vote chooses Yukon Party government; NDP take popular vote

The initiative is organized by national non-profit CIVIX

Yvonne Clarke is the newly elected Yukon Party MLA for Porter Creek Centre. (Submitted/Yukon Party)
Yvonne Clarke elected as first Filipina MLA in the Yukon Legislative Assembly

Clarke beat incumbent Liberal Paolo Gallina in Porter Creek Centre

Most Read