This week the Yukon Party government was dealt another major setback with the latest Peel land use court decision. The government is 0 for 2 in court, having lost the original trial and now the appeal as well. Hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent on communication plans and Outside lawyers from Vancouver and Toronto and now we are back to square one. The trust level between this government and First Nation governments has been eroded significantly.
Many, many Yukoners have seen their views on this subject ignored and the long court battle has had a significant negative impact on our economy and has led, in part, to the third straight year of decline of our GDP. It could have all been avoided if the Yukon Party had simply respected the planning process and used the road map that was outlined by the Umbrella Final Agreement.
The Court of Appeal was biting in its judgment that the Yukon Party did not follow the land planning process as intended. It also reaffirmed what the first court case stated; that Yukon failed to honour the letter and the spirit of its treaty obligations under Chapter 11 of the Umbrella Final Agreement. The Yukon Party government should publicly acknowledge its responsibility for this failure.
The eight principles, drafted in secret by Lake Laberge MLA Brad Cathers and Copperbelt North MLA Currie Dixon, are really at the heart of this government’s attempt to sideline the final Peel plan. These eight principles, and the unilateral plan that they led to, have been heavily criticized by both court rulings.
When the Peel case was raised in the legislature this week, the Premier took the condescending approach of speaking for two hours to list First Nations related projects the Yukon Party government had allocated funding to. When he finished speaking he left the house.
His approach came dangerously close to the “when is it ever going to be enough” narrative that we hear time and time again from conservative think tanks in this country. It is a narrative that only further pits two levels of government against each other — which pits neighbour against neighbour and polarizes our communities. How is this helping to address the current problems that we have in intergovernmental relationships?
The Yukon Party’s antiquated approach to First Nation relations has become a textbook example of why this government and other governments need to respect consultation processes, democracy and First Nation treaty rights. It will only be through partnerships and open consultation that this territory will once again be able to move forward.
Sandy Silver, Leader
Yukon Liberal Party
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