The Na-cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondek Hwech’in, Yukon Conservation Society and CPAWS-Yukon are suing the government for turfing the land plan developed by the Peel commission. It protects 80 per cent of the region.
The government’s new plan, now in effect despite the legal uncertainty, opens most of the watershed to industrial development. Even its protected areas allow for mining and roads.
In its 11-page defence, the government denies it’s violated the land claim agreements by imposing this new plan at this stage in the process.
It says a letter sent to the commission by then Energy, Mines and Resources Minister Patrick Rouble in February 2011 spelled out the government’s concerns about protection.
It says Rouble, who now chairs the Yukon Land Use Planning Council, made it clear the Peel plan had to allow for industrial development.
It also says the last round of public consultations – which many have called a sham – met land use planning requirements.
A news release announcing the government’s intent to carry on the court dispute also says it’s in the process of hiring a Vancouver lawyer to represent it.
The two First Nations and two environmental groups are being represented by one of the country's leading land claim legal experts, Thomas Berger.
He's also well-known in the North for his work with the Mackenzie Valley pipeline inquiry in the late 1970s.
A case management conference for the Peel lawsuit will be held in Yukon Supreme Court on March 11 at 4 p.m.