Peel watershed: Yukon government files appeal

The Yukon government is appealing a decision by the Yukon Supreme Court which was praised by First Nations and environmental groups.

Minister Scott Kent says government must 'have final say' regarding Crown land

The Yukon Chamber of Commerce says the legal disputes over the Peel region are taking up too much time and money. (CBC)

The issue of land use planning in the Peel River watershed is going back to court now that the Yukon government has announced it will appeal a decision of the Yukon Supreme Court.

"We decided to appeal this because we believe that public governments must have the final say about what happens on public land," says Scott Kent, Yukon's minister of Energy, Mines and Resources. 

In a historic ruling Dec. 2, Yukon Supreme Court Justice Ron Veale found that the Yukon government’s modifications to the Peel land use plan did not respect the land use planning process set out in the territory’s final agreements with First Nations.

The court ruled the Yukon government had acted in a manner "inconsistent with the honour and integrity of the Crown" by introducing new concepts to a discussion on land use after consultations had ended and said the remedy is for the Yukon government to return to consultations on the final recommended land use plan. 

Kent says the court`s decision places unfair limits on the government's power to manage Crown land. 

"We feel the remedy imposed by the Supreme Court too severely limits the public government`s ability to make decisions about public lands," he said. 

Appeal announced after end of session

The government's decision to appeal was announced after the closing of Yukon's Legislative Assembly's fall session, in which the Peel watershed was one of the biggest issues

Opposition MLA Kate White, who represents Takhini-Kopper-King, said the decision to appeal was a surprise.  

"We asked (the government) direct questions about whether they were going to appeal and we didn't get answers," she said.

The government had a 30-day window to file an appeal. The announcement was made three days before deadline. 

Kent says it took "some time for officials and our legal council to analyze the decision," and says the Yukon Party discussed the issue in caucus.

"It was felt that proceeding with an appeal was the right thing to do and the responsible thing to do." 

The case will be heard by the Yukon Court of Appeal.

No date for the hearing has been set.  

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