North

Judge reserves decision in Yukon Peel watershed battle

A coalition of First Nations and environmental groups is pitted against the Yukon government over how development will be controlled in the Peel watershed. Asked to present suggestions to break the deadlock Friday, both sides dug in their heels.
Thomas Berger, the lawyer representing the First Nations and environmental groups in the Peel Watershed trial, during the original hearing in July. (Brian Boyle/CBC)

Yukon Chief Justice Ron Veale says he needs time to consider a ruling on the Peel watershed land use fight.

A coalition of First Nations and environmental groups is pitted against the Yukon government over how development will be controlled in the region.

After hearing arguments from both sides this summer, Veale asked both to come forward with solutions to the deadlock.

Instead of solutions, the two sides spent three hours in court Friday, digging in their heels.

Aboriginal rights champion Thomas Berger told the court, the Yukon government acted unlawfully when it derailed the process and imposed its own land use plan for the Peel.

He wants the court to order the government back to the process, and limit the changes it can make to the land use plan preferred by First Nations and environmentalists.

That plan protects up to 80 per cent of the Peel region from development.

The Yukon government imposed a plan that would protect 30 per cent, and insists it has the final say on how crown land is developed.

If the court agrees the government messed up in the process as they're accused, the government says it will reconsider.

But the government also says: don't expect the result to change.

Berger summed up the government’s position, calling it a "dog's breakfast.”

He urged the court to deny the government's offer and restrict government options to addressing the plan endorsed by the First Nations and environmental groups.

Justice Veale has reserved his decision.

now