Monday, April 29, 2013

Miners fuel Yukon Party machine

The mining industry continues to be one of the biggest financial backers of the territory’s governing party, the 2012 Yukon political contributions report shows.
Nearly half of the $30,605 donated to the Yukon Party last year came from Vancouver-based Stratagold. It's involved with Victoria Gold's heap leach gold project east of Mayo.
It gave the Yukon Party $15,000. The rest came from 94 other donors, mostly individuals.
But the 2012 donations pale in comparison to the industry’s support for the Yukon Party in 2011, the year it had to face the electorate.
Mining and exploration companies, all headquartered in B.C. and Ontario, threw in thousands of dollars to help Premier Darrell Pasloski hang on to power. Nearly half of the party’s $153,000 in donations came from that industry.
Keno Hill area miner Alexco Resources and the Predator Mining Group, which was going to fire up the Brewery Creek heap leach gold project but has since closed its Yukon offices, were the two largest contributors. They gave $7,500 and $10,000 respectively.
Tintina Mines, Smash Minerals, Silver Quest Resources, Ketza River Holdings and Northern Freegold each gave the Yukon Party $5,000 to help with election expenses. PowerOne Capital Markets pitched in $2,500 and Inform Resources gave $2,000. Stina Resources and Pacific Ridge Exploration threw in $1,000 each.
Another $10,000 was donated by businesses serving the mining industry, such as aviation and drilling companies.
In 2010, three companies gave to the Yukon Party: Wolverine Mine owner Yukon Zinc donated $3,000, Alexco Resources $2,000 and explorer Eagle Plains Resources $1,000.
Only donors who give more than $250 are named in the annual reports prepared by Elections Yukon.
In 2012, 183 donors gave the NDP $33,831, slightly more than the Yukon Party. The Liberals collected $11,885 from 78 contributors and the Green Party received $1,305 from six people.
Click here to read the 2010, 2011 and 2012 political donation reports.
Click here to read a 2009 analysis of the political influences on the Peel planning process.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Peel staking ban to be extended

The Yukon government “does expect” to extend the mineral staking ban in the Peel watershed, Premier Darrell Pasloski told the legislature Tuesday.
The moratorium on new mineral claims and oil/gas/coal dispositions was scheduled to expire May 4.
When first asked about it by NDP leader Liz Hanson, the premier dodged the question.

“Part of the deliberations that we have is also reviewing the decision on the withdrawal of staking on the affected areas within the Peel watershed area and that is part of the diligence that we’re doing. We look forward to announcing a decision on that soon,” Pasloski said.
Quizzed a second time, he was a bit more forthcoming, but only after a wordy preamble about consulting with First Nations and meeting Umbrella Final Agreement obligations.
“In the interim, this government certainly does expect to continue the withdrawal of the lands within the Peel watershed region,” he said. 
Cabinet spokesman Matthew Grant confirmed by email the staking ban will be extended, but wouldn't say for how long. More details will be announced “in the next few days,” he said.
The staking ban was first imposed in February 2010 for a year. It’s been extended several times since then, the last time for just eight months.
Earlier this year, the government renewed its parallel "relief order” for holders of the more than 8,400 quartz claims in the watershed. It's now good until February 2014. Under the order, all claims are automatically renewed each year for free.
When the Peel commission started work on the land use plan in late 2004, there were about 1,500 mineral claims in the region. A staking rush soon followed, resulting in more than 11,000 claims in good standing by 2009.  
More than 2,500 claims had expired and exploration work had ground to a halt by the time the government stepped in to waive the annual fee of $100 in cash or equivalent work.

Peel First Nations set the record straight

Contrary to the Yukon government's view, the four First Nations involved in the Peel land use plan say final consultations are not underway - they have not even started. To clarify the confusion, they issued the following news release this week:

There have been conflicting and misleading public statements regarding the process and status of the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan. As parties to the planning process, we feel it’s in the public interest to clarify the status of the plan and the process going forward.

Here is where we presently are in the Peel planning and approval process:
• We have the commission’s final recommended plan.
• Yukon has consulted the public on that plan.
• Yukon recently reported the results of public comments on the plan.
• These comments are being reviewed by the parties—the governments of Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Nacho Nyak Dun, Vuntut Gwitchin, Gwich’in Tribal Council and Yukon.

The next step, which has not yet begun, is intergovernmental consultation on the plan among the First Nations and the Yukon. The public and intergovernmental consultations will inform the parties’ decisions regarding plan approval and implementation. The First Nations are in communication with Yukon to determine the process and schedule for intergovernmental consultation and plan approval.

We were concerned when Yukon provided only superficial and general comments on the commission’s December 2009 Draft Recommended Plan. Our concerns were heightened when Yukon unilaterally developed and published new plan principles and management tools for the plan after the commission filed its final recommended plan.

These actions do not conform to the letter or intent of land use planning in Yukon, as provided in our final agreements. Nor do they comply with the letters of understanding we developed with Yukon for the Peel planning process. We are in ongoing communication with Yukon in this regard.

We feel the attack on the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society in the premier’s recent budget speech was unfortunate from two perspectives. Firstly, this attack on a public society was not to the standard of public governance we expect in our legislature. Secondly, the implication that CPAWS is the driving force behind protection for the Peel is simply not true.

Our people have used the Peel watershed for thousands of years. For us, the Peel has unparalleled value. Also, the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan comes from our final agreements. While we appreciate CPAWS and others participating in the Peel public review processes, it is our governments that are the parties to the plan. We represent our mandates and interests directly. No one else speaks on behalf of our governments.

We need to get past the highly charged rhetoric in the legislature. We need to return to the business at hand. Specifically, we need to plan and commence intergovernmental consultations in a collaborative manner so we can respectfully consider and ultimately implement the plan. This is the process envisioned in our final agreements and agreed to in our intergovernmental letters of understanding as parties.

“It is disappointing the parties have not maintained a consistent process and reached agreement on the Peel plan to this point”, said Vuntut Gwitchin chief Joe Linklater. “We are trying to engage with Yukon respectfully in the manner set out in our agreements and our ongoing intergovernmental arrangements and we will continue to do so until this option is no longer available.”

“We are approaching the end of a long process mandated by our final agreements,” stated Nacho Nyak Dun chief Ed Champion. “We need to work together in good faith to complete the process, within the spirit and intent of our treaties.”

“We for sure appreciate the overwhelming support of CPAWS and Yukon public”, said Tr’ondëk Hwech’in chief Eddie Taylor, “although the direction we follow when it comes to protecting the Peel comes from our elders and citizens.”

“We’re here for the long term. We rely on the resources in the Peel. This plan will not only protect the Peel. It will protect our people,” said Gwich’in Tribal Council vice-president Norman Snowshoe.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Peel could make Yukon #1

Monday was Earth Day and so it seemed fitting that land use planning led off Question Period in the Yukon legislature. At issue - a damning letter from the Yukon Land Use Planning Council. Here's the "word-for-word" on what was said:
NDP leader Liz Hanson:Land use planning is a cornerstone of Yukon First Nation final agreements. The Yukon government committed to complete land use plans in good faith and with the aim of creating land use  certainty and promoting sustainable development and co-operation with Yukon First Nation governments.
In a strongly worded letter to the parties of the Peel land use plan, the Yukon Land Use Planning Council said, and I quote: “…regional land use planning program is in trouble. A number of negative precedents may have been set that undermine the trust and public confidence required to sustain an effective land use planning program.”
This is not news to this side of the House, to the public, nor to First Nation governments. What is the premier doing to rebuild the trust and public confidence required to sustain an effective land use planning process?
Premier Darrell Pasloski:  This Yukon Party is very loud and proud of the accomplishments that it has made going forward in terms of identifying protected land in the territory. In fact, 12.68 percent of Yukon land is protected, second only to the province of British Columbia. We’re not exactly sure where that will end up after the next regional land use plan, the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan, is finished. Perhaps we’ll even be in the number one position. We’ve identified six territorial parks, numerous habitat protected areas and special management areas. This government has done very well in terms of moving forward with land use plans. We have completed the north Yukon plan, we’re almost through the Peel watershed plan now, and we have in fact started a third one in the Klondike area.
Both the Liberals and the NDP have been in power since the Umbrella Final Agreement came into place 20 years ago. The NDP and the Liberals accomplished no land use plans. This is the only party that accomplished land use plans. We’re proud of that. We continue to move forward.
Liz Hanson:If the Premier looks, he’ll find that it wasn’t he who created those special management areas. It was the final agreements. The Yukon Land Use Planning Council confirmed what many have already said. The Yukon Party government’s unilateral introduction of eight new principles after the final Peel land use plan was recommended was not helpful and jeopardized the work already done by the commission, by Yukon First Nation governments, by government staff and Yukon citizens. The council also noted that requests for clarification from the Yukon government on the policy basis for these eleventh-hour principles have gone unanswered. This has caused uncertainty and concern and has had, for example, a negative spillover effect on the Dawson regional land use plan that recently started.
So will the premier explain to this House how Yukon First Nation governments could have any confidence in the land use planning process in which the Yukon government changes the rules after the fact and undermines the planning process?
Minister Brad Cathers:  First of all, I’d like to note with the letter we received from the former chair of the Yukon Land Use Planning Council. That individual was at the end of his term and was not reappointed by the federal government to that position. He provided us with a letter reflecting his viewpoint. We’ll certainly look through that and give it consideration for where there may be ideas that are of use. I do have to point out that there are some statements in that letter that are not factually correct and which the government cannot accept, including his characterization at the end of the first page of that letter that whether government follows the Umbrella Final Agreement or not is largely irrelevant. That is absolutely incorrect in government’s viewpoint.
We have followed the Umbrella Final Agreement process. We will continue to do so. But really, the leader of the official opposition, the NDP member, should give consideration to her own role and contribution to the public debate. The NDP’s contributions have often not been factual and certainly lead to a polarization of debate, which really is not in the best interests of Yukon society. The member should look in the mirror and think long and hard about the NDP’s role in this process.
Liz Hanson:It is unfortunate this government continues to attack citizens who are appointed by governments to represent all of us. The letter from the Land Use Planning Council continues by noting that the introduction of modifications to the Peel land use plan prior to public consultation is, and I quote: “inconsistent with the spirit and intent of the land claim agreement”. The council also said that this action by the Yukon Party government muddies the consultation process. The council then noted that this behaviour, and I quote: “undermines the government effort to demonstrate that the Yukon is a good place to invest.”
These are serious allegations.
This government is undermining final agreements; they are undermining confidence in land use planning, and they are creating economic uncertainty. When will the premier show real leadership and get the Yukon’s land use planning process back on track?
Brad Cathers:  Again I have to point out to the member that, as the premier noted in his response, the NDP and the Liberals both had time in office in the 20 some years since the Umbrella Final Agreement was signed. Neither ever did even a single regional land use plan. It is only the Yukon Party that has completed one process with our First Nation partners, has another almost completed and another underway.
This type of polarizing rhetoric we hear from the NDP does not contribute to a good public understanding of what the process is, what has occurred and what is required to occur. Really, the member needs to look only to her own rhetoric to understand that the NDP’s contribution to the public debate, since the election of the member for Whitehorse Centre as leader, has been entirely negative and rarely factual.
This government will review the letter from the former chair of the Yukon Land Use Planning Council.
We will give it reflective consideration. He has provided his viewpoints on the process and his thoughts, and we’ll give that consideration. If there are ideas in there that are useful to government and our planning partners, of course we will incorporate those in future planning processes.

Click here to read the planning council's five-page letter.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Chevron knows best

The only good Peel watershed is a developed Peel watershed.
So says multinational oil giant Chevron in its 2 ½-page submission on the region’s final recommended land use plan - a plan it’s pushing the Yukon government to punt and replace with a blueprint for industrial development.
That’s what would be best for the Yukon and for Yukoners, it says.
Chevron holds the Crest iron ore mineral leases in the Snake River valley. It also has oil/gas interests in the western Peel, near the Dempster Highway.
“We urge the acknowledgment of the potential economic benefits to be derived from development of these and other resources which will support the broader economic goals of Yukon,” says the submission signed by Chevron Canada's president, whose name and email have been blacked out by the government to protect his privacy.
“Chevron believes that the economic benefits of the region will only be realized if there is ready access to land with resource potential,” the Calgary-based company writes.
“Chevron believes an appropriate balance would be to increase the area in which the land use plan contemplates development and implement guidelines that are flexible enough to consider the merits of individual projects.”
A Peel plan must also have access corridors, says its comment which reads much like the one it sent in 2010.
“Due to transportation costs, virtually all resource developments in the Peel watershed are disadvantaged, relative to other regions. The region is remote and transportation costs are high. Excessive oversight or barriers in providing for feasible and economic access corridors to existing or new resources will have the same effect as not permitting development of those resources," it reiterates.
“Of greatest concern is the fact that the final recommended plan prevents ground access to the Crest deposit, thus preventing the economic development of this valuable resource for the benefit of Yukon residents.”
Its preference: a corridor across the Bonnet Plume River basin “for the Crest deposit infrastructure “ and another “from the Eagle Plains and Peel Plateau basins, permitting natural gas to a potential future pipeline corridor in the Mackenzie Valley.”
It gives no other details on the routing or whether it's thinking roads or railways. Nor does it say why it needs to cross the Bonnet Plume River, but not the Snake, even though the Crest project lies to the east of both rivers.
 Fuel-laced soil makes grizzly wallow.
But it does endorse the government's new plan – one of the few submissions from the resource extraction industry to do so.
“In our view, the use of the proposed land used (sic) designations, such as the Restricted Use Wilderness Area (RUWA) and the Wilderness River Corridor that would ultimately allow for such access would be a positive addition to the plan,” it concludes.
Chevron actually pitched a similar concept in 2010 when it urged the Yukon to "consider allowing access corridors across river corridor management or protection areas. These corridors provide general protection for a region, yet allow industry reasonable access for transportation.”
At that time it also sent along a few “guiding principles” to help the government develop a more industry-friendly plan that would:
  • provide the greatest benefit to residents of Yukon by developing the land use plan within the context of a prosperity agenda that enables responsible economic development, ensures appropriate ecological protection and reflects the social and cultural values of Yukon residents;
  • respects the right of existing lease holders, as reflected in existing contracts, lease agreements and other legal documents and;
  • ensure the plan is consistent with differing jurisdictional initiatives (ie. Pathways to Prosperity, Yukon Ports Access Strategy, economic development objectives, Yukon Energy Strategy and various other plans and strategies).
The Yukon government seems to have heeded this advice, releasing a similar set of "guiding principles" in early 2012 to soften its rejection of the Peel commission's final recommended plan.
Under that plan, Chevron could work its Crest claims and also access its oil/gas interests.

Chevron renews interest in North

In the past few years, Chevron seems to have stepped up its northern focus.
It persuaded the Yukon government to renew its 525 Crest iron leases, set to expire in 2013-14, nearly two years early. Now they're good for another 21 years or until 2034-35. Each lease is about 160 acres in size. It paid just $321,000 to renew the whole lot.
Although it also has Crest leases on the N.W.T side of the border, it didn't ask Yellowknife to renew those early. Even if it had, officials say they wouldn't have accepted an application so far in advance of expiry. As of April 4, the company still hadn't asked to extend its hold on that ground.
On the Yukon side, last year the company started cleaning up the mess it left when it shut down its Crest exploration project nearly 50 years ago. The contaminated site included a massive fuel tank, dozens of fuel drums and other miscellaneous debris. 
In documents filed with the Yukon's environmental assessors, Chevron said it plans to sell the Crest leases as soon as the clean-up is done.
Chevron shares its oil and gas interests near the Dempster with Northern Cross. That company, now 60 per cent owned by China's state-owned CNOOC, fired up a major exploration program on its Eagle Plain area permits in 2012. Work is still underway.
Several months ago, Chevron also bought into Apache Corporation's massive shale gas play in northern B.C., next to the Yukon border. Plans for that building a pipeline to Kitimat and an LNG facility. The Yukon government's been touting the Apache play of late, paving the way for the industry to extend its reach into the territory's southeast region.
Chevron also acquired exploration rights to a Beaufort Sea land parcel north of the Yukon’s coast. It promised to spend $103 million by 2015 on the deep water prospect.
Click here to read Chevron’s 2013 Peel submission.
Click nowhere to read Chevron's 2010 Peel submission. *The government recently removed the 2010 consultation feedback from the web. It contained all written and oral comments on the recommended plan.
Click here to read Chevron's 2009 Peel submission.
Click here to read all other information prepared for, by and about the Peel land use plan since the planning commission was formed in 2004.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Land use council lambasts Yukon gov't

The Yukon government has made a mess of the Peel land use planning process, says the outgoing chair of the Yukon Land Use Planning Council.

In a scathing five-page letter to the Yukon government and the four affected First Nations, Ian Robertson says the current situation is "untenable" and will take "courageous leadership" to restore the public's trust and confidence.

"To put it bluntly, the Peel plan has become a boat anchor and a lightning rod for division on a number of fronts," says the letter.

"The Peel is also a distraction for industry and undermines government efforts to demonstrate that the Yukon is a good place to invest. Land use certainty, clear rules and an effective land use administration system based on best practices is a goal shared by all."

His four main concerns regarding the government's handling of the plan:
  • The approval process did not follow key sections of the letter of understanding that the parties agreed to in January 2011.
  • The development and release of plan principles was done independent of any consultation with First Nations or input from the council.
  • The proposed modifications were not based on consultation outcomes but cobbled together with little "support evidence as to their validity."
  • It is desirable that the land designation system used across all Yukon regional plans should be relatively consistent in terms of definition and application. The approved North Yukon regional land use plan provided a guide to build upon.
Click here to read the full letter.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

What they really heard: 85%+ for plan

It's not what the Yukon government wanted to hear but, like it or not, it's what was said.

More than 85% of the written comments, received during the four-month Peel consultation, urged it to accept the final recommended land use plan and/or protect most of the watershed from industrial development.

A review of 2,420 submissions -  from First Nations, boards, organizations, businesses, political parties and individuals that were recently posted online - showed overwhelming support for the Peel commission's plan. Most were from the Yukon.

When petitions and postcards were thrown into the mix, that support increased to nearly 95%.

This figure doesn't include oral submissions, not even from elders of the affected First Nations. Their comments weren't recorded or transcribed or put in any form on the Peel consultation website, which serves as the official public record.

The government's What We Heard document didn't provide any hard numbers on plan approval or share what the majority of people said.

But three of its four general findings - namely that the government should accept the commission's plan, play by the rules and protect an irreplaceable global asset - were in keeping with this results of this count.

Its fourth dealt with the pro-development faction, a view that was clearly in the minority.

This review - which included opening and reading every single comment - also found the government's "concepts" were pretty much a bust. A poor attempt at “switch and ditch” as one guy put it.  Ignored by some, criticized by others, they seemed to simply create more confusion than anything.

The Council of Yukon First Nations chastized the government for putting forward such substantive changes at this late stage in the planning process. The chance to do that was in 2009, not now, it said.
“To carry out any activities outside of the legal boundaries prescribed by the Yukon First Nation Final Agreements creates uncertainty and could perhaps lead to legal action,” it said in its submission.
“It is in the best interests of all Yukoners to ensure that the Peel watershed final land use plan is legal and consistent with the Yukon First Nation Final Agreements.”
The four affected First Nations - the Na-cho Nyak Dun, Tron'dek Hwech'in, Vuntut Gwitchin and the Gwich'in Tribal Council - have been saying the same thing for months.

But with the Peel's moratorium on new mineral claims and oil/gas/coal dispositions set to expire May 4, time is of the essence to complete a final plan, said the Gwich’in Tribal Council, which represents four N.W.T. First Nations.

The Tetlit Elders' Council, of Fort McPherson, called the government's move to add its concepts confusing and disappointing.

“The elders of this community gave a lot of their traditional knowledge to the Peel commission’s land use planners and many of those elders are no longer here,” they wrote. “We elders put so much time and consideration into the commission’s plan – your new concepts and land use designations disrespect all of that knowledge and work.
“Before this land use planning even started we have called for all of this sacred land to be protected and the rivers kept clean. We continued to voice that during the many years of land use planning. To us this means no roads…Roads through that land are to us like a disease that spreads.”
It also took exception to the concept of active management.

"Active management is not protection. Protected lands and active management cannot live together; it is one or the other.” 
The UFA-mandated Yukon Fish and Wildlife Management Board said it's not opposed to resource extraction but had to support the commission's plan, in part, because the government's concepts were too vague and uncertain.

“For example, one mitigative tool described is temporary access, yet temporary is not defined nor has it been explained how temporary reverts back to no access,” it said. “The board has a long established position on access and its potential negative implications on wildlife and habitat. It is our experience that access is never temporary, nor is it regulated effectively.” 

The Porcupine Caribou Management Board also backed the commission's plan. “The process to arrive at the final recommended plan was inclusive and consistent with the Umbrella Final Agreement, in contrast to the current process," the board wrote.

About 30 business and conservation organizations answered the call for feedback.
After spending four months studying the final plan and the concepts, the Tourism Industry Association of the Yukon urged the government to accept the plan.

"This is a plan that most Yukoners, all of the affected First Nations and the tourism industry have accepted, as it would create more certainty for land use in the area and would accommodate the needs of most groups, including the tourism industry," it said.

The Yukon Chamber of Mines, one of only three groups to oppose the plan, commended the government for trying to find what it calls "a more balanced approach."

But even though it liked the designations and tools in the "concepts", it was concerned with "the current lack of details regarding the mechanics of establishment of a modified plan and plan implementation."
The Yukon Fish and Game Association wanted to go on record in support of the commission's plan.

"The plan, as presented to the public, deals with the clear message from people that wildlife and habitat in the region are of the highest value, while also achieving areas of five land management units for integrated management areas where resource development is possible," it wrote.

As for the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, it said it couldn't take a position because "not all members agree with each other on this issue."

Another two dozen or so private companies sent comments. Not surprisingly, the tourism businesses supported the commission's plan while most of the mining and oil/gas companies did not. 

U.S. multinational Chevron, which has the Crest iron claims in the Snake River valley and oil/gas interests near the Dempster Highway, said the plan had to allow access to those resources.
Hundreds of individuals also responded. Most told the government to stick with the final recommended plan. All of their names were removed or blacked out by the government before they were posted, ostensibly to comply with privacy laws.

With or without names, the comments are grouped and displayed in a way that making them hard to peruse and almost impossible to search. They are all divided only by how they were received - mail, fax, email, sticky note, etc. - and some also by date and location.

There is no index to serve as a guide for the business and organization submissions whose identities have been left intact.

The site has a search tab, but it only combs 635 individuals who used the web-form to comment. The other 1,500 or so written submissions, housed in individual electronic files, have to be clicked one at a time, category by category.

The much more user-friendly public record website of the 2010 Peel land use consultation has been recently removed from the internet altogether by the government. Now the only way to access that information is to contact the Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Pasloski, Cathers: word for word

Under questioning from Yukon NDP MLA Kate White, Premier Darrell Pasloski and Mines Minister Brad Cathers defended their decision to leave oral submissions off the public record of Peel land use plan consultations.  Here is the verbatim transcript of their oral comments in the legislature Monday.

NDP Kate White: The Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan goes to the heart of the relationship with Yukon First Nations. Yukon First Nations relinquished huge amounts of land to reach settlement agreements with this government, but Yukon First Nations were promised a meaningful role in land use planning. The voices and wisdom of elders are central to aboriginal culture, tradition and practices.
The oral nature of these traditions is well known by all. Given the central and important role of elders and their wisdom, why didn’t the minister ensure that, during the latest round of consultations, their comments would be transcribed word for word and put in the public record?

Premier Darrell Pasloski: I’d like to say that during the public consultation, we in fact received over 2,000 comments regarding the Peel land use plan - faxes, letters, e-mails and website comments on the website, and responses from the householder that was sent out to residents all over the territory.
I certainly want to thank all of the officials for the hard work that they put in while this whole process went on and the engagement that occurred and the engagement that occurred in Whitehorse and affected communities as well.
Certainly, oral comments helped to form the general comments in the What We Heard document that was out there. Certainly, people were encouraged to provide written comments, in light of the fact that there always can be some interpretation around oral comments that are made.
Certainly over and above the public consultation, there was targeted consultation with the affected First Nations prior to the public consultation and, in fact, going on as we speak right now before the conclusion of this. Of course, the First Nations themselves will be listening to their elders and helping form their response as a result of the comments they heard from their elders.

Kate White: Last week, we heard from the government of the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun about comments their elders made on the proposed Peel watershed land use plan. According to chief [Ed] Champion, the elders’ comments and the comments of others who gave oral testimony at a government open house were not adequately reflected in the Yukon government’s What We Heard document.
This is one more example of this government’s inability to properly consult with Yukoners.
What action will the premier take to ensure that the oral comments made by elders and citizens of Yukon First Nations regarding the Peel land use plan are properly recorded and included in the public record?

Darrell Pasloski: As I’ve mentioned, certainly, while rural comments helped form the basis of the What We Heard document, the officials were there tasked with providing information and gathering information and that certainly helped form that document.
We encouraged people to provide written comments, simply because oral comments can be interpreted. Two people, three people could listen to a comment and may find different meaning to that comment or take it in a different context, so I think from one perspective that is important.
As I mentioned, certainly the affected First Nations have their own specific consultation with regard to the Peel land use plan. Certainly, I will assume that the First Nations will be listening to the elders as part of gathering their information and putting forward their thoughts on this when they come back for that specific consultation with the government and then to move forward with this plan.

Kate White: The premier’s handling of this whole land use planning process has gone from bad to worse. First the government did not allow staff to engage in any substantive way while the recommended plan was being developed. Second, the government unilaterally revealed this new set of principles. Third, the government tried to go around the First Nation final agreements and trotted out a new set of plans for the public to comment on. Last, but not least, the government is now deciding whose comments are more valid than others. Now the words of the elders are being left out.
The premier has yet again failed the process and the people. Will the premier recognize his fault and ensure all the comments made by elders and citizens of Yukon First Nations are included in the public record?

Brad Cathers: Once again the member is wrong. I know the NDP like to rely on their carefully written rhetoric rather than reflect the facts. I would point out first of all, as the member knows, that what the government has done is consistent with the commitments and statements the premier made at the leaders forum on the environment during the 2011 election campaign.
Secondly, as far as the consultations that went on, our staff went the extra mile in trying to hear from Yukoners. In this situation, Na-cho Nyak Dun, at the request of the chief, went into a room where others were meeting to hear directly from people at the chief’s request.
As the premier noted, comments that were included and posted in specific comments online have not been transcribed from what was heard orally at meetings. But what was heard orally at meetings does form part of the What We Heard document.
As the premier noted, elders of First Nations also have the opportunity to speak directly to the First Nation government and we have an obligation, which we have followed and will continue to follow, to consult directly with the First Nation government.
So their comments do form part of what government has done in the public record and undoubtedly will be a major part of what the Na-cho Nyak Dun First Nation puts forward in their comments and input to government in the remaining stages of the consultation process. We’re certain that that First Nation will undoubtedly take steps to address their comments.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Peel oral submissions missing in action

The Yukon government has completely ignored the oral submissions it received during its recent consultations on the Peel watershed land use plan, says the Na-cho Nyak Dun First Nation.

Oral comments are nowhere to be found in the raw data now posted to the government's Peel website.

And they get no mention in the government's What We Heard report.
Mayo residents brave -35 to attend Peel meeting.

Until that changes, the Mayo-based First Nation says in a news release that it can't accept either the on-line feedback or the report until the views of its community are properly reflected.

Although the government held meetings in eight communities this past winter, its officials didn't record or transcribe any of the presentations or comments people made at these events like it did in 2010.

The only feedback that made it into the public record was in some written form - letters, sticky notes, questionaires - except for voice mails called into its number which were transcribed.
The Na-cho Nyak Dun said the government has to put all comments on the record for consideration.

“This is of great concern to our First Nation,” says Na-cho Nyak Dun Chief Ed Champion.

“Chapter 11 of our Final Agreement requires that the knowledge and experience of First Nations be used to achieve effective land use planning.

"We come from an oral tradition and when our elders made their way to the community open house in December, in -35 temperatures, they expected that their oral input would be included. So did many other NND citizens who got up to speak that evening."

The government's open house was not set up to accommodate oral submissions. It took place in a small room with maps and displays, but there were no chairs for the elders or others. There was no opportunity for people to share their views except in writing.

“When we were told about the open house set-up, we knew it would be an obstacle to meaningful participation by our citizens and especially our elders,” said NND's Barb Buyck.

“So we made sure that they had a space to sit and listen and contribute orally, which is the way they are accustomed to participating.”

The First Nation rented the hall next door so there'd be enough room.

The Na-cho Nyak Dun also feel the What We Heard report shows additional bias against oral submissions.

It says only 37 people visited the Mayo event.

“There were more than 60 people in attendance between the two rooms that day, all there to give input about the land use plan for the Peel. That’s almost double the number of people documented in the report,” said Champion. 

“We were not happy with the way the public consultation was conducted and I feel that our citizens did their best to participate in this important process.

"It’s a huge disappointment for our people to see those efforts overlooked, and I am quite concerned about the cavalier manner in which the inter-governmental consultations will approached in the near future.”

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Peel public feedback finally made public

After weeks of stonewalling, the Yukon government has finally released the comments it received about the Peel watershed land use plan.

Ever since the Feb. 25 deadline closed, it's been coy about when it was going to share the public's feedback with the public.

Late Thursday afternoon, it sent out a news release saying all the comments were now available on its website.

It's arranged them by method of communication - emails or voice mails or whatever - and by community.

It's also stripped out all the names of the people who made the submissions, whether they wanted them to or not.

That'll make for more confusion as people sift through the muddle, perhaps trying to find their own entry or simply interested in what others had to say.

At the same time, the government released a 27-page summary report, prepared by J.P.Flament Consulting Services. Flament was part of the government's consultation team at most of the community consultations, acting as the "Wal-Mart greeter" who helped to steer people to the various "information stations."

In all more than 10,000 people answered the government's call for comment during the public consultation period this past winter.

More than 7,500 of those favoured the Peel planning commission's final recommended plan and urged the government to accept it.

Yukon gov't fears Chevron muscle

Yukon NDP MLA Jim Tredger tried to quiz Premier Darrell Pasloski on the government's Peel plans during Question Period on April 2, but Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Brad Cathers provided all the responses. Here's the transcript of that exchange:
Mr. Tredger: Mr. Speaker, in his budget address, the premier revealed his government’s true agenda on the Peel watershed. The premier is promoting the Crest iron ore deposit based on a financially speculative project analysis as the basis for his vision of economic development in the Peel. According to a report by Hatch Associates on the proposed development of the Crest iron ore deposit, the heart of the Peel River watershed would contain one of the world’s largest strip mines and a steel mill for the extraction of low-grade iron ore.
The premier’s budget address and the planning process his government participated in for over seven years paint very different visions for the Peel watershed. How does the premier reconcile this contradiction?
Hon. Mr. Cathers:  What I would point out to the member for Mayo-Tatchun, first of all, is that the budget address referenced work that was done jointly by staff of Energy, Mines and Resources and staff of Economic Development in identifying the known ore within the Crest iron ore deposit, identifying tha just 15 per cent of that had been test drilled and identified in the conceptual pit design that was done years ago — that is 1.68 billion tonnes. Based on the five-year average price of iron ore, this fraction of the deposit would have a market value of $139.7 billion and represents only 15 percent of that total deposit.
What the member needs to understand is if the Yukon government were to take action that directly or indirectly expropriated that, we would lose a court case and be faced with paying compensation. It’s not all flowers, sunshine, roses, theories, fairies and Marxism. The members need to open up their eyes and realize that economics and case law will define what would occur within litigation, which the Yukon government would lose. Our vision, as we stated very clearly, is in fact to protect the environment within the Peel area, including capping the maximum footprint of all activity to ensure that 99.8 percent of restricted-use wilderness areas remain pristine at all times.
Mr. Tredger: The Crest plan calls for a second strip mine as part of the planned iron ore strip mine project. This second strip mine would be at the Bonnet Plume coal deposits 80 kilometres from the iron ore strip mine. The premier’s economic vision for the Peel includes a coal strip mine for a coal-fired plant that will produce the energy needed for the massive iron ore strip mine and steel mill. Then there are upward of 80 kilometres of transmission lines. Besides reducing another portion of this pristine wilderness watershed into dust, the premier is touting a coal-burning power plant, one of the world’s dirtiest energy sources on the planet.
How does the premier reconcile the recommended Peel land use plan as developed by the land use planning commission with his support for one of the proposed world’s largest industrial developments in the heart of the Peel?
Hon. Mr. Cathers:  Quite simply, the Member for Mayo-Tatchun is absolutely, unequivocally wrong. The member has invented and completely mischaracterized what government is actually presenting.
In fact, if the member were to read the energy strategy he would realize that it is this government, and I as then minister of Energy, Mines and Resources, that identified that we would not support the development of energy sources, including coal and nuclear power based on what we had heard from Yukon citizens. The member completely and consistently fails to reflect the facts in this manner.
Our vision for the Peel area is taking an approach that protects the environment and respects all sectors of the economy. Our proposed creation of restricted use wilderness areas in the Peel region allows for potential economic activity while capping the maximum footprint of all activity at significantly less than one percent. Doing this would ensure that 99.8 percent of the areas remain pristine wilderness, while allowing for the potential of responsible uses that provide significant economic benefits to Yukoners and preserving both pristine wilderness and economic opportunities for future generations.
We have also - which the member has failed to acknowledge - proposed in all of the concepts put forward by government, the protection of the viewscapes from rivers to ensure that there is no staking or surface dispositions within the landscape visible from the rivers in recognition of the importance of those river corridors to wilderness tourism operators.
Mr. Tredger:  The feasibility of the project depends on a strip coal mine, according to the Hatch report. The Hatch report also states that there would be hundreds of kilometres of high-quality all-weather highway from Mayo deep into the heart of the Peel River watershed - a highway. The report projects upward of 100 40-tonne capacity tractor-trailer units per day would travel the highway. That’s every day. The impact of the construction of hundreds of kilometres of a new highway and the reconstruction of the existing Wind River winter road is enormous.
The government talks about balance and how its proposed Peel plan would protect the environment. Does the premier really expect anyone to believe that we can develop one of the world’s largest industrial projects in the heart of pristine wilderness and protect the environment, including its tourism, hunting, recreational or —
Hon. Mr. Cathers:  Does the NDP really believe that the Crest iron ore deposit, which was staked over 50 years ago and has been kept current - at a cost - by companies since that time, is something they would simply walk away from when case law would demonstrate very clearly that if the Yukon government were to deny access to the even potential development of the Crest iron ore deposit, we would, quite simply, lose in court to Chevron, which has a lot deeper pockets and a lot better lawyers than the Yukon government does?
Quite frankly, Mr. Speaker, the NDP’s vision absolutely does not acknowledge the facts. There is a significant economic value to this area. As we have noted, the estimated value of just 15 percent of that deposit is in excess of $139 billion. If the Yukon government were forced to pay even a small fraction of that in court costs, it would come at a very drastic cost to our territory and future.
What we have proposed is a balanced approach that does not promote any project. What it does is provide for a framework that ensures that the vast majority of the Peel region remains pristine wilderness, including 99.8 percent of all restricted-use wilderness areas, and all areas visible from rivers would be protected from new claim staking and new dispositions. The members need to realize that they can’t just imagine the facts.