Latest Peel Watershed Decision a Victory for First Nations, Environmental Values and the Democratic Process
By Donald Reid
In a far reaching decision, the Yukon Supreme Court ruled on December 2nd that the Yukon government did not honour the land-use planning process when it unilaterally intervened in that process, rejecting the Final Recommended Plan of the legally mandated Peel Watershed Planning Commission (Commission) and replacing it with another plan. The Court has upheld the primacy of the constitutionally-binding land claims settlements, and the key role of First Nations as Parties in the Yukon’s government-to-government planning processes.
Four of these First Nations, along with the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Yukon Conservation Society, were the plaintiffs, taking the Yukon government to court over its handling of the land-use planning process. In siding with the plaintiffs, this Court decision effectively re-instates the Commission’s Final Recommended Plan as the only Plan for the future. It will be the focus of one more round of consultations, but its central recommendations on land use designation will not be changed. Consequently, 80 percent of the watershed’s 67,000 square kilometres should become new protected areas in the near future, compared to only 29 percent that the Yukon government put forward in its unilaterally imposed plan.