Yukon First Nations still short on clarity for Peel watershed

An appeal court decision that rejected the Yukon government's plan for the Peel watershed has vindicated First Nations, but the battle to have a say in the process may not be over.

An appeal court decision that rejected the Yukon government's plan for the Peel watershed has vindicated First Nations, but the battle to have a say in the process may not be over.

The appeal court ruled yesterday that the Yukon government failed to honour treaty obligations during land use planning for the Peel Watershed. 

Roberta Joseph is chief of the Tr'ondëk Hwëch'in First Nations, just one of the groups that argued against the Yukon government.

While pleased with the ruling, she says, in a news release, that it's disappointing that the issue has cost so much time and money, "and… we still lack clarity for the Peel."

Wednesday's ruling sets the process back to February 2011, when the Yukon government first advanced its modifications to the proposal. That's further back in the process then what was recommended by the lower court. 

Lawyer Tom Berger, who represented the First Nations and environmental groups in court, says that's far enough back that the Yukon government could effectively implement its plan by the back door. 

The court says the Yukon government has the right to reject recommendations during land use planning, if it follows the proper process.

Na-cho Nyäk Dun Chief Simon Mervyn says the Peel ruling supports First Nations constitutional rights, but does little to ensure the Yukon Government respectfully listens to what First Nations have to say when it comes to land use planning.

The First Nations are carefully considering the court's decisions, and whether further steps should be taken.

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