Thursday, October 24, 2013

Put Peel on navigable waters protection list

The Peel River deserves to be protected under the new navigable waters law that kicks in next year, the federal NDP say.

The Yukon-N.W.T river is one of hundreds of Canadian rivers, streams and lakes that are going to lose federal oversight once the Navigable Waters Protection Act turns into the Navigation Protection Act in April.

The act was gutted by the Harper government, along with other environmental legislation, in the 2012 omnibus budget bill.

The current act regulates any “works constructed or placed in, on, over, under, through or across” any navigable water in Canada.

Right now a proposed bridge, pipeline or hydro dam on the Peel would fall under this act, requiring federal approval to interfere with a waterway. 

Come April, that will no longer be the case.

In fact only 62 rivers and 97 lakes in the whole country will still be governed by the navigable waters law.

This week the federal NDP continued its push to rectify that.

N.W.T. MP Dennis Bevington tabled a bill in the House of Commons, calling on the Harper government to include the Peel River on its list of important navigable waterways.

“After consulting this summer with people in the Mackenzie Delta and those in the Yukon, there was a great deal of support for this river’s protection,” Bevington told the House of Commons in Ottawa Oct. 23.

“This is one step in making an attempt to return this river to a status of some measure of protection, which means that in the case of a development on the river, the federal government would have a responsibility to ensure that the development was following good practices,” he said.

“This is a river that has great tourism and wilderness value and it is a river that has enormous significance to the Gwich’in people of the Northwest Territories and the Yukon.”

Bevington tabled a similar bill last spring asking that Canadian Heritage Rivers in the north – including the Peel’s Bonnet Plume – also get a place on its preferential list.

As it stands, only two rivers in the two territories made the cut - the Yukon and Mackenzie. There are also two N.W.T. lakes, Great Bear and Great Slave.

Yukoners are being urged to write Yukon Conservative MP Ryan Leef ( and ask him to support Bevington’s bill.

Letter writers are encouraged to copy the Yukon Conservation Society ( and Bevington ( so there’s a clear record of how many letters of support Leef receives.

You can track the status of Bill 543 at the Open Parliament website.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Yukon gov't fails Peel planning

An academic analysis of the way the Yukon government has handled the final stages of the Peel watershed land use planning process says it provides a fine example of what NOT to do.

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability zeroed in on the territory’s decision to reject the Peel commission’s final recommended plan and forge ahead with a new one unilaterally.

Bad move, say the authors of Fixing Land Use Planning in the Yukon Before It Really Breaks: A Case Study of the Peel Watershed.

Land use planning is, afterall, supposed to be a co-operative process.

“We predict that unless the identified flaws in the decision process are addressed, the Peel River watershed debate will only continue to be drawn out, with different participants, perspectives and values repeatedly coming into conflict,” says the Northern Review journal article by Kiri Staples, Manuel Chavez-Ortiz, Doug Clark and M.J. Barrett.

“There are certainly a lot of perspectives at play here, with some people wanting 100 per cent conservation and others wanting some development,” said Staples in a U of S news release.

“But it is ultimately up to the four First Nation governments and the Yukon government to come up with a way to navigate those differences through the decision process. Our analysis shows the Yukon government ultimately failed to do this.”

Conflicting perspectives and values among groups is to be expected in a diverse and democratic society, said Clark.

“However in the context of the Peel watershed the decision-making process led by the Yukon government left participants feeling they’ve been denied respect and a true voice at the table,” he said.

More should have been done much earlier to help stakeholders understand each other’s values and how those would be affected by different outcomes, the researchers concluded.

A clear set of ground rules from the get-go should also be a must when there are so many diverse and legitimate interests to be reconciled.

Click here to read the full article in the Northern Review.