Gwich'in protest Peel plan in Yukon and N.W.T.

Gwich'in people across the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are expressing their outrage with the Yukon governments decision to open 71 per cent of the Peel Watershed to development by planning walks on Wednesday and Thursday.

Youth in Whitehorse, Fort McPherson and Inuvik, N.W.T. planning walks

Norman Snowshoe, vice president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council, is helping organize a walk in protest of the Yukon government's plan for the Peel Watershed. (CBC)

Gwich'in people across the Yukon and the Northwest Territories are expressing their outrage with the Yukon governments decision to open 71 per cent of the Peel Watershed to development.

Youth in Whitehorse will be holding a peaceful protest outside the Whitehorse legislature and people in Inuvik will be walking to the Ingamo Hall Friendship Centre Wednesday. 

Youth in Fort McPherson will walk about 13 kilometres from the community to the bank of the Peel River Thursday. Hundreds are expected at protests in the three communities.

"We cannot guess what that development allows," says Norman Snowshoe, vice president of the Gwich'in Tribal Council in Inuvik

Snowshoe says the Yukon government is doing the opposite of what First Nations recommended through the Peel River Planning Commission

"Any development on development will have an impacted. Any development will have an effect, there's the drainage system. There's the drainage system that you have to consider that comes the Yukon Territory to the Northwest Territory. There's huge number of species that will be impacted the effects on wildlife are huge.

Snowshoe says the Gwich'in Tribal Council is also contemplating legal action against the Yukon government.

People in Whitehorse and Inuvik are planning walks to protest the Yukon government's plan to open the Peel River watershed to development. (CBC)

The Trondek Gwich'inthe Nacho Nyak Dun, as well as the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society and the Yukon Conservation Society filed a lawsuit Monday against the Yukon government for its plan to open the Peel Watershed to development.

Trondek Chief Eddie Taylor says the government's plan for the 70,000 square kilometres of undeveloped wilderness is a breach of the First Nations Final Agreement. 

Taylor says the government's completely disregarded the recommendations made by the Peel Watershed commission. He says the government's plan makes a mockery of the land planning rules established under the Umbrella Final Agreement and the First Nations will never accept it.

"Now they came out with a whole new plan. Developed by themselves, probably in their back room, and they want to pass that through as the Peel Watershed plan," says Taylor. 

The Yukon government has declined to comment at this time.

Meanwhile, the movement to protect the region from development has found a vigorous following online as well. A petition on the popular online activist network Avaaz is also drawing attention from around the world.

The petition was posted online on Sunday night. In less than 24 hours, over 2,000 people had signed up and counting. By Tuesday morning, 3,000 signed it. 

Dean Williams organized the campaign. He says the government's decision required an international response. 

"We're not going to be pushed into corners, we're going to try to push back. And if that means that we have to reach out to international friends then we're going to do that." 

Petitioners from outside the territory have no say in the government's decisions. But Whitehorse activist Tanya Van Valkenburg says they fill another need.
"They give you the sense that you're actually able to accomplish something. That what you believe in, if other people believe in it then it can just grow and the movement can make change." 


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