Today, the Yukon Government announced that they will appeal the decision of the Yukon Supreme Court’s Decision to overturn the amended land use plan for the Peel River drainage. The timing is interesting, in that the announcement comes shortly after the legislative session has ended and the house will not sit again for several months.
This was the result of a suit filed to deal with the government’s implementation of their own land use plan for the Peel, overturning the process and decision of the Peel Watershed Planning Commission after five years of consultation and $1.6 million in costs.
The original plan called for protection of 80% of the region. The government, however, unilaterally rejected the plan and presented their own calling for protection of less than 30% of the region.
The Na-Cho Nyak Dun and the Tr’ondek Hwech’in First Nations, along with the Yukon Conservation Society and the Yukon chapter of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, filed a suit arguing the government’s new plan unilaterally ignored the planning process, part of the Yukon First Nations’ Umbrella Final Agreement, and hence, is constitutionally protected.
This is not the Yukon Government’s first foray into clashing with Yukon First Nations over traditional lands. The Ross River Dena Council successfully sued the territorial government in 2012 over requiring consultation for granting staking on traditional lands. The government appealed the Yukon Supreme Court decision to the Supreme Court of Canada, which refused to hear the appeal.
The Kaska Dena Council have also filed similar suit in May of 2014. Ross River also filed another suit over failure to consult over the issue of big game hunting permits in August 2014.
All of these issues seem to stem from the complete failure of the Yukon Government to understand their role vis–à–vis first nation governments in the territory and the proven in law rights and responsibilities of governments on first nations’ traditional territories.
Under the Umbrella Final Agreement, a constitutionally protected agreement, first nations have the right in Yukon to devolve any territorial government power and have that funded from Yukon Government revenue. What this basically means is that a first nations government in Yukon is the constitutional equivalent of the territorial government.
Perhaps, for perspective’s sake, the Yukon Government should look at this from the other side, namely, that the government is the equivalent of a first nation and the premier is the equivalent of a first nation chief.
Until the government governs the territory in this manner, they will continue to throw away taxpayer’s money on suits they have no hope of winning, and for no other logical purpose than to save face. Unfortunately, when it comes to relations with Yukon First Nations, the government has no more face to save.
These trials have cost a substantial amount of tax money, wasted because the government does not understand or want to understand their position in the constitutional milieu. What would be quite fair is for the government to publicly announce how much has be spent since 2011 on law suits filed by first nations. These number should be made public before the appeal is filed…