The Peel Watershed conflict is a unique case that pitted the Territorial Yukon government and the First Nations of the Peel region. The watershed covers 67, 431 square kilometers in the northeast Yukon. In 2004, the territorial government developed the Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan [PWRLUP] for land use development in the large, unpopulated, and undeveloped area with the potential for oil, gas, and hard rock mineral development.
In July 2011, the Peel Watershed Planning Commission produced a Final Recommended Peel Watershed Regional Land Use Plan which recommended that 80 percent of the region should be protected as Special Management Areas and designated as wilderness areas, while the remaining 20 percent of the watershed would be open to “nonrenewable resource-use opportunities" subject to key land-use and environmental management considerations, including enhanced community consultation where specific.”
However, the Yukon government presented a set of counter-proposals that only protected 30% of the watershed, significantly reducing environmental protection and opening up the remaining 70% for mineral extraction and oil and gas exploration.
This proposals were presented without consulting the First Nations living on and/or using the land, including First Nation of Nacho Nyak Dun; Tr’ondek Hwech’in; and thee Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation.
Indigenous groups mobilized claiming that the territorial government’s land use plan “did not respect the Chapter 11 process.” Chief of the Tr’ondëk Hwëch’in First Nations, Eddie Taylor said “To us that land is sacred and should be preserved for future generations. As our elders say, the Peel is our church, our university and our breadbasket”.
First Nations and environmental justice groups brought the Yukon government to court and after five-years of legal battles the case was appealed to Canada’s highest court. On December 1, 2017, after years of court battles, the Supreme Court made a unanimous decision ruling in favour of the Indigenous peoples of the Peel Watershed region. The Court declared the parties must return to the point in the process where the territorial government can either approve, reject, or modify the Initial plan recommended by the Commission. Christina MacDonald, Executive Director of the Yukon Conservation Society, stated, “This is a huge, huge victory for Indigenous people and it’s cause for environmental celebration on a global scale.”
 CBC News. 2014. First Nations environment groups sue Yukon over peel plan. CBC News online: <http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/north/first-nations-environment-groups-sue-yukon-over-peel-plan-1.2512433>.
Sara L. Jaremeko. 2017. The peel watershed case: Implications for Aboriginal consultation and land use planning in Alberta. Canadian Institute of Resources Law. University of Calgary. Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Umbrella Final Agreement between The Government of Canada, The Council for Yukon Indians, and The Government of Yukon (29 May 1993), online: < https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/DAM/DAM-INTER- HQ/STAGING/texte-text/al_ldc_ccl_fagr_ykn_umb_1318604279080_eng.pdf >
Tom Clynes. 2017. Vast Yukon wilderness protected in ruling for Native tribes. National Geographic. Online: <https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/12/peel-watershed-yukon-protected-canada-supreme-court-decision-spd/>.