Dawson City as scene from West Dawson. Art Webster, the vice-chair of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission resigned last month over the Yukon governments unwillingness to pause speculative staking. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Dawson City as scene from West Dawson. Art Webster, the vice-chair of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission resigned last month over the Yukon governments unwillingness to pause speculative staking. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)

Vice-chair resigns from Dawson land-use planning commission

NDP warns that not pausing mining activity is the road to a second Peel decision

The vice-chair of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission has resigned in protest of a decision by the Yukon government not to pause speculative staking in the area during the process.

“I believe my effectiveness in fulfilling the responsibilities of a Commission member have been severely compromised,” wrote Art Webster, in an email dated Sept. 8 addressed to Premier Sandy Silver.

In the legislature on Oct. 26, MLA Liz Hanson challenged the government on the resignation, suggesting that the current process is setting up for another legal battle similar to the Peel watershed.

The goal of the Dawson Regional Planning Commission is to develop a plan for the 39,854-square-kilometre area, including use of land, water, renewable and non-renewable resources.

The process is also part of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in’s final agreement, as it will set out a plan for a large area of the nation’s traditional territory. Four of the current five members of the Commission are Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in citizens.

In February the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government requested the Commission to recommend the Yukon government temporarily pause mineral staking in the area while the land planning process took place. The Commission felt they could not issue that recommendation, but attempted to facilitate a meeting between the First Nation and the government to discuss the issue.

In February the Yukon government declined the invitation.

In particular, Webster’s resignation letter cites how the Commission has identified part of the northern Dawson region as a potential wilderness area, but the Yukon government has approved applications for mineral exploration in the area. If an active mineral claim exists in an area it becomes harder to designate it as a wilderness area, according to Webster.

“Public opinion certainly supports responsible mining operations in our Territory, but surely not everywhere,” he wrote.

The government’s position is that staking should not be put on hold until the release of a draft plan.

“What we’ve committed to is to say we’re going to wait for that process. When we have a draft plan, then we can move to put in the moratorium. We believe that areas that potentially were staked previous to this process, that there’s still a way to deal with that,” Minister of Energy, Mines and Resources Ranj Pillai told media Oct. 26.

Pillai said the Dawson area has important mineral resources, conservation value, heritage sites and traditional areas for trapping and hunting. Many of these sites overlap, making it important for the Commission to be balanced and consider all factors.

“It’s all in the same place,” he said. “We’re hearing that the Commission is working very well together. The Commission continues to make good progress.”

Pillai said safeguards still exist in the existing approval process for claims.

Webster, who is a former NDP MLA, said he believes that some of the remaining members share his view and will continue to do good work on the commission.

The NDP said the issue has the potential to become another Peel watershed if the government is not careful. Hanson said the government should have met with the Commission and the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government to discuss the proposal.

“What you do is you create more division in the community than necessary. I just don’t think that that’s the path that governments should be following,” Hanson said. “To say that you’re going to wait for the draft plan [for a moratorium], I think that’s just going to invite a repeat of the Peel plan.”

Correction: This article was corrected Oct. 29 to reflect that it was Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in government, not the Commission itself, that sought a pause on mineral staking in the area from the Yukon government.

Contact Haley Ritchie at haley.ritchie@yukon-news.com

Dawson City

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

Just Posted

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
This week at city hall

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its April 6 meeting.

Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

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

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read