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!
Now, the pure rivers running free through a land of rugged mountains, boreal forests and tundra — one of the largest unspoiled natural areas left in North America — will be preserved. This exquisite and pristine land will be stewarded by a coalition led by Indigenous Peoples, thanks to the support of RAVEN and our allies.
The fate of the Peel Watershed was decided by Canada’s highest court: strategic legal action for Indigenous Rights won the day.
Three First Nations, with the support of the majority of the Yukon people, are celebrating the protection of the Peel Watershed together with thousands of supporters who helped take this fight to the Supreme Court of Canada.
CANADIAN PARKS AND WILDERNESS SOCIETY • YUKON CONSERVATION SOCIETY •
TAYU HAYWARD PHOTOGRAPHY
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To ensure that their rights were being respected and that the planning commission’s recommendations would be upheld, the First Nations partnered with two Yukon-based conservation organizations – Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society-Yukon and the Yukon Conservation Society – to take the Yukon Government to the Yukon Supreme Court. They won. However, the subsequent judgment by the Yukon Court of Appeal left a loophole that would allow the Yukon Government to modify the plan to increase development in the Peel.
In December 2015, the First Nations of Na-Cho Nyak Dun, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, and Vuntut Gwitchin, along with the two conservation organizations, applied for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada. In June 2016, leave to appeal was granted and the case was heard in March 2017.
On December 1st, 2017, the Supreme Court ruled that the (previous) Yukon government did not respect the land use planning process agreed upon with the First Nations.
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: