Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Yukon denies Peel land plan wrongdoing

The Yukon government has officially responded to the Peel land plan lawsuit, filing its statement of defence just before the Feb. 18 deadline.

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.
Click here to read the statement of claim and  click here to read the statement of defence.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Gwich'in to launch own Peel lawsuit

The Gwich’in Tribal Council is filing its own legal challenge to the Yukon government’s new Peel watershed land use plan.

Last week two Yukon First Nations and two environmental groups sued the territory over the plan.

“This legal challenge will be tailored to the unique position of the Gwich’in in the Yukon and will be supportive of the action filed by the Na-cho Nyak Dun and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in,” said the GTC in a news release.

 “A court decision will provide clarity for the Gwich’in, Yukon and other groups on the meaning of modern treaties and the future of the Peel watershed,” it said.

The council, which represents four N.W.T. Gwich’in communities, including Fort McPherson, says the new plan violates its modern-day treaty.

The Gwich’in Comprehensive Land Claim Agreement, signed in 1992, recognized their strong ties to the Yukon and included a separate deal for transboundary concerns. That included a place at the land use planning table for the Yukon portion of the transboundary Peel watershed.

“When the Peel Watershed Planning Commission was established in 2004, the GTC was optimistic that it would result in a plan that would protect the exercise of Gwich’in rights in sacred areas of the Peel watershed. Such protection would be for the benefit of Gwich’in and northerners alike,” it said in the release.

“The final recommended plan proposed by the commission was a compromise for the Gwich’in, who made it clear that they wanted the entire Peel region to be protected from resource development.

“However, the GTC supported and continues to support, the final recommended plan’s proposed protection of 80% of the Peel watershed and its focus on sustainable development.

“Despite the Gwich’in good faith participation in this process, the Yukon government has drastically and unilaterally re-written the operative elements of the final recommended plan, significantly reducing the protections for the Peel watershed.

“The Yukon government’s new plan will allow substantial development in critical parts of the Peel watershed, threatening Gwich’in’s continued connection to this sacred area,” it said.