Tr’ondek chief dismisses new Peel plans

The First Nations involved with the Peel planning process want the government to retract their new plans, said Chief Eddie Taylor of the Tr'ondek Hwech'in.

The First Nations involved with the Peel planning process want the government to retract their new plans, said Chief Eddie Taylor of the Tr’ondek Hwech’in.

The Yukon government last month announced that they would bring some new ideas about what the Peel plan could look like out for public consultation.

“I don’t think much of (the government’s new plans),” said Taylor. “There was no consultation with the First Nations, so really it doesn’t carry any weight with us.

“We want them off the table. We have provided them written notice that we want those off the table.”

The Yukon and all four affected First Nations signed a joint letter of understanding on January 20, 2011, detailing how they would conclude the Peel land use plan in a timely manner.

The letter clearly indicates that the Yukon government and the First Nations would be partners in the public consultation on the final recommended plan put forward by the Peel Watershed Planning Commission.

Instead, the government moved forward with a consultation process designed behind closed doors, said Taylor.

The letter explains that the parties would have a chance to review the recommended plan both internally and collaboratively before going out to the community for consultation.

No such collaborative review has occurred, said Taylor.

“These reviews – internal and collaborative – will identify and scope issues that could be further addressed through First Nation final agreement processes regarding the final recommended plan,” the letter states.

The parties understood that only modifications proposed during earlier stages of the planning process could be brought forward during the final public consultation, said Taylor.

“They have gone way beyond that,” he said. “They’re asking for a whole new plan now.”

After the commission’s draft plan was released, the government was asked to provide specific recommendations for changes along with detailed explanations. Instead, the government put forward only vague suggestions that the plan be more “balanced” and that the commission “revisit the question of access.”

Now at this late stage in the process, the government has put forward scenarios where new road construction has not been ruled out anywhere in the watershed. The commission’s plan asked for 80 per cent of the region to be off-limits to roads.

The government’s decision to come up with their own plans for the Peel to bring to the public for consultation violates the spirit of the letter of understanding, which was to work co-operatively throughout the planning process, said Taylor.

The First Nations are willing to take the government to court over the breach, but will wait for the conclusion of the planning process, he said.

“Our intent is to continue in good faith, to be a part of that process and to see it through to the end.”

For now, Taylor is left with some serious questions about the government’s motives.

“I have spoken with many local miners who have absolutely no interest in accessing the Peel watershed. That leaves me wondering who the Yukon Party is representing.”

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

jronson@yukon-news.com

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