The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in favour of the original recommendation to protect 80 per cent of the pristine Peel watershed from develop ment. The region is a 68,000-square kilometre swath of land in northern Yukon, representing about 14 per cent of the territory. The Vuntut Gwitchin, Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in, and Na-Cho Nyäk Dun First Nations all have traditional territory in the region.
In 2012, a land-use planning commission made the recommendation to protect 80 per cent of the watershed against development as part of a legally mandated consultation process. Instead, the Yukon government chose to protect 30 per cent of the area from development, spark – ing a five-year court battle. The dispute had effectively put land use planning processes on hold throughout the Yukon, pending a resolution on the Peel case.
With the unanimous Supreme Court decision on December 1, the Yukon government can move forward with the land use planning process in the territory with consultations on the Commission’s final recommendations for the plan, including dealing with many exploration claims in the region.
The ruling strengthens the interpretation of Indigenous treaty rights and land-claim agree – ments between Indigenous groups and different levels of government across Canada.