YTG conjures reasons to reject Peel plan

The Yukon government is rejecting the Peel Watershed land-use plan by citing sections of the Umbrella Final Agreement that don't exist. The Energy, Mines and Resources Department threw down the gauntlet on the Peel Watershed Planning Commission.

The Yukon government is rejecting the Peel Watershed land-use plan by citing sections of the Umbrella Final Agreement that don’t exist.

The Energy, Mines and Resources Department threw down the gauntlet on the Peel Watershed Planning Commission Friday afternoon, accusing the six-member commission of misinterpreting the land-use planning law.

After a six-year review of the issue, delivered in a 300-page report, the commission recommended protecting 80 per cent of the watershed.

Government officials said the commission doesn’t understand the Umbrella Final Agreement and, in particular, Chapter 11, which mandates the creation of land-use plans across the Yukon.

“There’s certainly work yet to be done on this, and that is why a process has been established,” said Minister Patrick Rouble on Monday morning.

But it isn’t easy to nail down the government’s reasons for rejecting the plan.

Its argument relies on the claim the commission misinterpreted Chapter 11’s objectives.

“Yukon government feels the interpretation wasn’t as balanced as Chapter 11 reads,” said the department’s senior planner Jen Meuren on Monday afternoon.

“If you read Chapter 11, it’s got a suite of objectives, and the intent of the final agreement is that all of those objectives are considered equally and applied equally,” she said.

“Certain objectives weren’t considered.”

Which objectives? Meuren wouldn’t say.

“We’re not getting into specifics,” she said.

“This is now a period where we say, ‘Here are our views on the table to discuss in a dialogue with the other parties.’

“In terms of being prescriptive and saying, look at this objective more and look at that one less, that’s not where we’re going.

“It’s more of an overall reconsideration of emphasis.”

Pressed, Meuren pointed to “sustainable development, the precautionary principle, a balance of land uses” as objectives the commission left out.

“Those are all words you would find in Chapter 11,” she said.

But you can’t.

“Balance of land uses” is nowhere to be found in Chapter 11.

The government’s reliance on “balance of land uses” is crucial because it is code for less protection and more mining.

On Tuesday, Meuren was asked to show where “balance of land uses” appears in Chapter 11.

She amended her previous comments.

“I wasn’t saying this phrase occurs,” she said.

“The terminology was perhaps off.”

Instead, she meant to say Chapter 11 mentions different land uses.

“There’s a number of clauses that point to accommodation of mixed land uses,” she said.

That’s not exactly true.

Chapter 11 cites six objectives. They are: create land-use plans, minimize land-use conflicts, promote First Nation values, use traditional knowledge, recognize First Nations’ responsibilities for land management and ensure sustainable development.

Some of these clauses mention the existence of different land uses.

The final objective references the need to co-ordinate economic policies to ensure sustainable development.

So, the commission must ensure the environmental impacts of different land uses are considered as a whole, not in isolation.

Government interprets this differently.

It sees it as a command to ensure mining isn’t snuffed out.

“(The objective) implies there’s a mixture of land uses (as a result of the land-use planning process),” she said.

She also cited Chapter 11’s second objective, which calls on the commission to minimize land-use conflicts.

The commission must ensure different users of the land get along.

But it doesn’t say different land uses must all be propped up equally.

The government’s analytical leap is that the mention of different land uses means they all must exist into the future.

“Chapter 11 implies that there could be a mixture of land uses,” said Meuren. “I don’t think it’s an out-there interpretation.”

Earlier, Rouble was even more vague about how the commission misinterpreted the act.

The commission was being too narrow in its reading of Chapter 11, he said at first.

“The territorial government has a broader lens with which to look through this document,” he said, citing unnamed federal and territorial legislation and the Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Board.

He suggested land-use planning undermines zoning policies in other legislation.

“We also have to recognize the other tools that we have for protection, whether those are working on special management areas with Yukon First Nations,” he said.

“By being involved in a special management process, it would actually give several First Nations greater involvement in managing those areas than they would otherwise have.”

But, in fact, land-use plans are supposed to guide that other legislation.

The government’s position on the land-use plan, released in a news release Friday afternoon, is noticeably devoid of figures or specific changes to the plan.

Specifics are not needed now, said Rouble.

“I’m going to encourage folks to, rather than seek a particular number or a particular position, that we look at all of the interests involved, an interest-based process as we’ve been mandated to do as we continue to go through this,” he said.

“It is a bit of a challenge in going through this process where, in fact, people have taken specific positions or drawn lines in the sand, if you will, and all of the governments involved have a responsibility to the interests of all Yukoners.”

“At this stage, I can’t tell you what the final plan will look like because we still have a process to get there.”

The government has had a year to consider the commission’s plan, but can’t release details at this point, said Rouble.

Meuren rejected the notion that Friday’s news release was a bona fide position, even if that’s what the First Nations, who demanded the information be released much earlier, were calling it.

“These aren’t positions and this isn’t the final response to the commission,” she said.

“These are just points of discussion.”

The Yukon government now has to conduct those discussions with the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun, the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nation, the Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation and the Gwich’in Tribal Council.

They all want 100 per cent protection for the Peel Watershed.

Now all five governments must fashion a response to the commission within a year. The commission will respond to that joint response.

Rouble was aware giving the government position in a news release issued on a Friday afternoon before Christmas holidays was a questionable decision.

“I know everyone would have liked to have received it earlier or later this week – I don’t know,” said Rouble.

“People seem to always complain when we send things out on Fridays. I could have waited until Monday.”

Contact James Munson at

jamesm@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

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

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read