Hikers rest at Mount MacDonald, near the Snake River in the Peel Watershed. The Yukon government says the final step for coming up with a completed land use plan for the watershed is expected to take about a year. (Ian Stewart/Yukon News file)

Yukon government preps for round of consultations on Peel watershed

Supreme Court of Canada forbid major changes to the planning commission’s final recommended plan

The Yukon government says the last step before coming up with a final land use plan for the Peel River watershed is expected to take about a year.

That would mark the end of a process that dates back to 2004 and was contentious enough to end up in front of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Yukon Premier Sandy Silver and the ministers of environment and energy, mines and resources met with chiefs from the the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Vuntut Gwitchin, and Nacho Nyak Dun First Nations as well as vice president of the Gwich’in Tribal Council this week.

On Jan. 30, Jesse Devost, spokesperson for the Department of Energy Mines and Resources, said all sides confirmed their support of the Peel planning commission’s final recommended plan.

At the meeting, the leaders decided to create a committee that will be responsible for coming up with a plan for one last round of consultations.

“Once the consultation is complete those parties will get together and work together on approving a final plan,” Devost said.

The process is estimated to take about a year, he said.

Late last year the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the former Yukon government overstepped when it released a plan for the Peel watershed in 2014 that was radically different from the recommended plan produced after the Peel Watershed Planning Commission’s years of work.

The Yukon Party government’s plan would have meant 71 per cent of the Peel watershed was open for mineral exploration with 29 per cent protected. That’s compared to 80 per cent protected and 20 per cent open for mineral exploration under the commission’s final recommended plan.

The First Nations and environmental groups took the government to court.

After years of legal battles, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled all sides had to go back to consult on the commission’s final recommended plan again. The Yukon government has the authority to make minor modifications to the plan but can’t change the plan “so significantly as to effectively reject it.”

The Liberals have promised to accept the final report of the original Peel planning commission. Silver has previously said ideas for any minor tweaks would not come from the territorial government.

Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in Chief Roberta Joseph said the court made it clear that substantive changes would not be allowed.

“We would be waiting for the plan to go through the consultation process and see what sort of recommendations are made by citizens and the public to take that into consideration,” she said.

There’s no details yet on when the consultations will start, Devost said.

“We’re really pleased that we’re finally at this stage where we’re starting to move forward and that we’re really happy that Yukon government is working with the First Nations on this and we look forward to this process being completed,” Joseph said.

A celebration of the Supreme Court of Canada victory is happening Feb. 2 at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre from 4:30 pm to 11 pm. The evening will include speeches, a fire lighting, a water ceremony and story sharing circle as well as dinner, live music and dancing.

With files from Jackie Hong

Contact Ashley Joannou at ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

Hospital cancels Whitehorse woman’s surgery 45 minutes beforehand

Patricia Nowell-Lindquist had changed into a gown and was fully prepped when she was told the news

UPDATED: Cross Country Yukon starts GoFundMe campaign for stolen pump

The theft means snowmaking is on hold until a replacement is found

Rams, Crusaders continue Super Volley winning streaks

Vanier secures first overall in boys standings

Cannabis Yukon opens in a blaze of glory

Yukoners spent $59,900 on legal cannabis on the first day

Commentary: Does Yukon need a United Way?

“The reason we ask is that we may not be sustainable”

Whitehorse FC sides impress at B.C. tournaments

Four teams, four tournaments, only one loss

Yukon soccer teams represent at Canada Soccer National Championships U15 Cup

“Everybody brought their game to a totally new level and set a (new) bar”

Yukonomist: The greying of the Yukon

It’s the kind of thing you might see in a society that suffered a major war twenty years ago

History Hunter: New book honours fallen Yukoners of World War I

The book introduces the story of Yukon’s wartime involvement and describes heroic contributions

Commentary: Celebrating Hanksgiving

Instead of a cornucopia centrepiece filled with autumn foods and flora, we use the Wilson volleyball

U Kon Echelon holds weekend mountain bike racing camp in Whitehorse

“It’s incredible the changes I’m seeing from when we started in September to now”

Liberals to scope out ‘efficiencies’ in departments

The premier was asked about ostensible reductions to department budgets at question period

Most Read