The chief of the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun is happy to hear the territory extend the ban on staking in the Peel watershed, but warns the issue is far from over.
“We’re certainly happy for that, but that’s, by no stretch of the imagination, the end of the Peel issue,” said Simon Mervyn, speaking for both his First Nation and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in.
Depending on the Yukon government’s next steps, the whole thing could still end up in court, said Mervyn.
The First Nations sent a legal opinion to the Yukon government back in February, warning that the territory may be running afoul of land-claim agreements.
First Nations support the proposed plan to protect four-fifths of the Peel from development. The government wants a “better balance” between mining and conservation.
Half a year after First Nations issued their legal warning, they’re still waiting for a response, said Mervyn.
“It’s incumbent upon (the Yukon government) to come forth and declare their position,” he said. “We can’t say one way or the other whether it is a legal issue or not, we’re just abiding by the process at this point, but we’re certainly prepared to go to court.”
As for rumours that First Nations have been a part of “back-door meetings” with the government about the Peel – that’s untrue, said Mervyn.
“All our work with the Peel has been transparent. We’re waiting patiently for government to proceed with the process as we see it under the final agreements.
“We’re a patient people and we will wait – we’ve been waiting for thousands of years, and we know the resources are out there in the mountains, and we really don’t care in what century they are extracted.”