Territory hid Peel consultation results

The Yukon Party government buried a report that shows an overwhelming majority of Yukoners want to protect the Peel Watershed.

The Yukon Party government buried a report that shows an overwhelming majority of Yukoners want to protect the Peel Watershed.

An analysis prepared by the Environment Department one year ago found the “overwhelming majority” of people who responded to public consultations wanted to protect most, if not all, of the watershed.

But the territory never released this information. Conservation groups had to ferret it out with an access-to-information request.

Earlier, conservationists hired DataPath Systems to analyze the raw data from the territory’s public consultations and found similar results. But mining boosters expressed skepticism about the findings because it had been paid for by environmentalists.

Now we know the territorial government came to the same conclusion. But it never told the public.

The government report shows 87 per cent of respondents wanted the entire watershed protected, with an additional nine per cent supporting the planning commission’s plan to protect four-fifths of the vast swath of wilderness.

But the Environment report appears to have been stonewalled by the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources, which is co-ordinating the government’s response to the Peel talks.

Energy, Mines and Resources’ only response to the report was to accuse it of lowballing the number of responses opposing protection. That turned out to be incorrect, say conservationists, who have sifted through the data to confirm the numbers.

The mining department’s own analysis noted consultations attracted a large number of people, based on the “expectation from stakeholders and interested members of the public that their opinions will be reflected in the final decision made about the land use plan.”

But that assumption now seems off-base. The Yukon Party has made it clear it thinks the proposed plan goes too far, and doesn’t allow enough mining.

Before Premier Darrell Pasloski decided protecting the Peel Watershed would bankrupt the territory, he dodged questions on the matter by insisting that he needed to consult the public.

The suppressed report raises new doubt about Pasloski’s sincerity about consultation, said Karen Baltgailis, executive director of the Yukon Conservation Society, in a release.

“It is hard to take Mr. Pasloski seriously on the issue of consultation since the Yukon Party government, apparently unhappy with the results, buried the last consultation report.”

This isn’t the first pro-conservation report suppressed by the territorial government. Pasloski’s predecessor, Dennis Fentie, also quashed a Department of Environment report that supported protecting the watershed.

Contact John Thompson at

johnt@yukon-news.com.

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