The five-day trial was scheduled after lawyers for both sides met briefly with Justice Ron Veale in the privacy of the court boardroom March 11. The case management conference was closed to the media and the public.
The suit against the Yukon government was filed in late January by Mayo’s Na-cho Nyak Dun, Dawson’s Tr’ondek Hwech’in along with the Yukon Conservation Society and CPAWS-Yukon.
The four say the government violated the joint land use planning process agreed to under land claims when it dumped the Peel commission’s final recommended plan for one more to its liking drawn up by its own officials.
The commission, made up of appointees from the Yukon and First Nation governments, spent seven years researching, analyzing and consulting on how to manage the Yukon portion of the transboundary watershed.
It came up with a plan to protect 80 per cent of the 68,000-sq.km. region - a plan which received widespread public support.
The government’s new plan, which went into effect Jan. 21, allows industrial development in most of the region, including the contentious Wind-Bonnet Plume-Snake river region.Aboriginal claims expert Thomas Berger is leading the legal challenge for the First Nations and conservation groups. The Yukon government has hired B.C. lawyer John Hunter to defend it.
Neither Berger nor Hunter were at the Yukon hearing. Yukon lawyer Stephen Walsh, who appeared for Berger, said the trial date had already been agreed to beforehand as had other procedural matters so it went quickly and smoothly.Meanwhile advocates of Peel protection are planning a musical rally at the Yukon legislature when MLAs begin the spring sitting March 25.