The Fight Continues for the Peel Watershed

Media Release
December 31, 2014

The Fight Continues for the Peel Watershed

The Yukon Government announced late yesterday that they would appeal Justice Veale’s decision in The First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun et. al. v The Government of Yukon, the lawsuit concerning the Peel Watershed launched by the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society Yukon Chapter (CPAWS Yukon) and the Yukon Conservation Society (YCS).

Upon hearing this news Chief Ed Champion of the First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun said, “It’s unfortunate that Yukon Government continues to create uncertainty for industry in Yukon by extending this process even further, but we are ready and willing to continue for as long as it is necessary to protect the integrity of our Final Agreements. We trust that the public and other First Nation governments will continue to stand with us to protect the Peel Watershed.”

“We won once, we believe we can win again,” added CPAWS Yukon Executive Director Gill Cracknell, “It’s shameful that Yukon Government continues to waste taxpayers’ money on a legal battle that is contrary to the will of the majority of the public – but if government refuses to stand up for the people we see no option but to continue to do so.”

The plaintiffs launched the legal proceedings on January 27, 2014, alleging that Yukon Government broke with the land use planning process laid out in the Umbrella Final Agreement (UFA), and incorporated in all the First Nations Final Agreements in Yukon.  The plaintiffs sought to have the process set out in the UFA upheld and to see the planning through to a conclusion that would protect more than 54,000 square kilometres of wilderness in northern Yukon’s Peel River Watershed from mining and other industrial development.  The week of July 7 – 10, renowned lawyer Thomas R. Berger O.C., Q.C. argued the landmark constitutional case in the Supreme Court of Yukon in front of a packed house.  The case was then continued on October 24 to accommodate a deeper discussion focused on remedy.  On December 2, 2014 Justice Ron Veale delivered his written decision in which he agreed with the plaintiffs.

Christina Macdonald, Executive Director of the Yukon Conservation Society, explained, “This is a betrayal of the thousands of people who have put their energy toward the protection of the Peel for so long.”

Chief Roberta Joseph of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in added, “We will defend the Peel as well as the principles of our Final Agreements, and the land use planning process promised to us in exchange for ceding Aboriginal title to 95% of our traditional territory. We ask that First Nations and non-First Nations people alike stand with us as we continue the fight to protect the Peel and preserve the integrity of our modern-day treaties.”

A rally will be planned for the New Year in reaction to Yukon Government’s announcement today as the plaintiffs wish to honour the public’s time with friends and family over the holiday break.

Media Contacts:
Chief Ed Champion, First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun: 867 335 3989
Wayne Potoroka, Communications Director, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in: 867 993 7100 x 108
Gill Cracknell, Executive Director, CPAWS Yukon: 867 332 8079
Christina Macdonald, Executive Director, YCS: 867 668 5678