Today is a good day. In a unanimous decision, the Supreme Court of Canada has upheld the plan to protect the majority of the Peel Watershed in northern Yukon. It’s a massive victory for Yukon First Nations and cause for environmental celebration on a global scale. Congratulations to Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, Vuntut Gwitchin and Na Cho Nyäk Dun First Nations on this important victory!
Huge thanks to everyone who donated and shared the story!
“The Supreme Court of Canada has upheld our treaty agreements and this is the outcome we were hoping for. This is a victory for our modern-day treaties and the collaborative planning processes promised for Land Use Planning.” Chief Roberta Joseph, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nation
The highest court in Canada ruled that the Yukon government must complete meaningful final consultations on a land use plan that protects 80% of the pristine watershed. The judgment reverses Yukon government’s attempt to open up 70% of the Peel Watershed to industrial development, including mining and fossil fuel extraction.
The Supreme Court judgment found that the (previous) Yukon government did not respect the land use planning process agreed upon with the First Nations:
“In this case, Yukon did not have the authority under s. 126.96.36.199 to make the changes that it made to the Final Recommended Plan. Yukon’s changes were neither partial nor minor. They were not based on modifications it had proposed earlier in the process, nor were they made in response to changing circumstances. Yukon’s changes to the Final Recommended Plan did not respect the land use planning process in the Final Agreements and its conduct was not becoming of the honour of the Crown.” (emphasis added)
“We have always been responsible stewards of our Traditional Territory even in the face of adversity and uncertainty. We are pleased that the Court agrees that the path towards reconciliation requires honourable implementation of the spirit and intent of our Final Agreements.” Chief Bruce Charlie, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation
This Supreme Court judgment sets a precedent for how modern treaties will be interpreted in Yukon Territory and across Canada. It reminds Yukon and all Canadians about the vital place of modern treaties in Canada’s constitutional fabric:
“As expressions of partnership between nations, modern treaties play a critical role in fostering reconciliation. Through s. 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, they have assumed a vital place in our constitutional fabric. Negotiating modern treaties, and living by the mutual rights and responsibilities they set out, has the potential to forge a renewed relationship between the Crown and Indigenous peoples.”
This victory would not have been possible without the bold actions and sustained support of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, and the Yukon Conservation Society, through the whole trial and appeals process. Both environmental groups were appellants in their own rights, and were hugely instrumental in raising funds for the Yukon First Nations’ legal defence – thank you!
The Peel victory is proof that RAVEN’s strategy works. Despite the cost and the lengthy timeframes of these cases, Indigenous Peoples hold powerful rights that, when defended and upheld in court, protect wild and sacred places. Today’s Supreme Court victory demonstrates what can be achieved when you stand with First Nations and put reconciliation into action.
Thank you for your investment in making a better world!
Read the SCC’s decision: https://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/16890/index.do
Read more about this historic decision here: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/supreme-court-ruling-protects-yukon-wilderness/article37163734/