Monday, June 16, 2014

Yukon gov't defends Peel plan rejection

The land use planning process doesn't seem to carry much weight with the Yukon government.

And it's going to use the Peel watershed plan lawsuit to try to prove that point.

The suit was filed by two First Nations - the Na-cho Nyak Dun and Tr'ondek Hwech'in - and the Yukon Conservation Society and CPAWS-Yukon in January after the government rejected the final recommended plan prepared by the Peel planning commission.

The commission's plan protected 80 per cent of the watershed while the government's new plan opens most of the region to industrial development.

In its outline of the arguments it plans to use in the upcoming July 7-11 trial, the Yukon government says it had every right to ignore the work done by the Peel commission.  The six-member commission, made up of government and First Nation appointees, spent seven years and $1.5 million studying, analyzing and consulting on how to best manage the Yukon portion of the transboundary watershed.

As far as the government's concerned it had no legal obligation to do a land use plan despite the fact there's an entire chapter in the constitutionally-protected land claimsagreements that provides a template for how land use plans are to achieved.

"Chapter 11 provides a voluntary planning process that ensures that both government and First Nations can participate in the process and be consulted with respect to any final proposals, but which leaves the ultimate decision-making authority in the hands of government for non-settlement lands and First Nations for settlement lands," it says.

About 97 per cent of the Peel region is non-settlement land.

"The Yukon government has consistently stated that it required a balanced approach to planning on these lands. When the commission declined to provide a recommended plan that was balanced, it was open to the government, after proper consultation to modify the plan, to achieve that balance."

The case has ramifications not only for the Peel plan, but also for modern-day treaties in general and whether they are worth the paper they're written on.

Click here to read the government's full 48-page argument.

Click here to read the claim against the government.