Yukon News

Robert Kennedy Jr. wades into the Peel debate

Jesse Winter Wednesday August 7, 2013

Jesse Winter/Yukon News


Robert Kennedy Jr. speaks at the Yukon Arts Centre on Monday.

When a Kennedy stands up to talk about democracy, a lot of people listen. So when one member of the famed family came to Whitehorse to paddle the Alsek River and talk about resource extraction, a few hundred showed up at the Yukon Arts Centre to hear what he had to say.

Robert Kennedy Jr. spoke at the arts centre on Monday night, and his message was clear: economies based on resource extraction undermine democracy.

“When you have extractive-based economies you have a few people becoming billionaires by essentially impoverishing the rest of the people,” Kennedy said.

He spoke for over an hour about his experiences as a high-powered environmental lawyer in the U.S. He’s fought environmental polluters across the country. One of his most famous battlegrounds was the Hudson River, which used to be one of the deadest rivers in America, he said.

“You could see it change colours depending on what colour they were painting the trucks at the factory upstream,” he said.

Now, it’s once again teeming with fish, thanks in large part to work done by local fishers who banded with Kennedy to form the Waterkeepers Alliance, which sued big polluters for big dollars, and won. Monday’s talk was also a fundraiser for Waterkeepers.

Throughout his career, Kennedy said he saw examples of resource companies gaining the upper political hand and using it to enrich themselves at the cost of the public.

There are huge hidden costs, which Kennedy called subsidies, that resource companies take advantage of, unbeknownst to most. Even roads are a good example. Heavy trucks hauling equipment, fuel and minerals up and down public highways cause damage to the roads but the companies don’t pay for it - the public does.

But the larger concern, he said, is that as resource companies control ever-larger portions of the public commons and wealth, they can start to subvert democracy. That’s what has happened with the Peel planning process, he said.

“The First Nations wanted 100 per cent of the Peel preserved, but they compromised in good faith,” Kennedy told reporters before his presentation.

“And then the current government released its own plan and essentially took that five years of intense consultation and threw it into the garbage, and proposed a plan that was not approved by the stakeholders, including the First Nations, but instead seemed to be the product of a consultation with the oil and gas industry, and the extractive industries. To me, that’s not model democratic process.”

Monday wasn’t the first time Kennedy waded into the Peel. At a press conference last week he made similar comments, which drew the ire of Yukon Environment Minister Currie Dixon.

In an interview with the Whitehorse Star, Dixon accused Kennedy of being an elitist and spouting ill-informed nonsense.

“I want to thank him for welcoming me to the territory,” Kennedy said on Monday, chuckling.

But he dismissed most of Dixon’s comments as ad hominem attacks designed to skirt the real issues.

“It’s a personal attack, which I understand generally people make those kind of attacks when they don’t want to argue the case on its merits. What I would like to hear from the minister is why he believes that this process was democratic. Maybe I’m wrong. I don’t know that much about this process, but from what I’ve been told about it, it looks extraordinarily undemocratic,” Kennedy said.

On Thursday, Dixon dialed down his rhetoric, but he remained adamant that Kennedy doesn’t understand the issues.

“I think Mr. Kennedy has some interesting and potentially valuable perspectives on the matter. But what I find a bit frustrating is that he doesn’t seem to have the understanding of the local Yukon context on the subject that he’s talking about.

“In particular, he didn’t seem to understand the challenges and opportunities that come with implementing multiple modern comprehensive land claims agreements against the backdrop of a local economy that is based primarily on the sustainable development of our natural resources,” Dixon said.

Dixon said that the government has followed the Umbrella Final Agreement “to a tee” and will continue to do so until the process is complete.

When asked which of Kennedy’s views he did think were interesting and valuable, Dixon replied, “Well, I think I would want to reflect on that a little bit. It’s important that people from outside the Yukon understand that while we do have a beautiful and big territory, people do live here. And in order for them to continue to do so, there needs to be jobs and opportunities. The development of our natural resources often provides that opportunity.”

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flyingfur wrote:
2:49pm Thursday August 22, 2013

OK tom shaver you need to man up and admit you have no idea what you’re talking about

Tom Shaver wrote:
9:55am Thursday August 22, 2013

The area around Mayo Lake holds a great wealth of ancient art artifacts. In the far past mines were developed and worked for generations.  In their free time miners were inclined to produce art work by carving the mountain sides and valley floors with images. These images can be seen on Google earth in many parts of the Yukon. I have not been able to find out who produced these works. They look to be the work of ancient artists, but strangely most are best viewed from about 5.000 to 7,000 meters above. An industry could be created by using these art works as a basis to study and examine.

Atom wrote:
9:21am Saturday August 17, 2013

Yukon bear…...the quartz act is 100 years old, hence miners being allowed to rape and pillage…..the forestry act is 2 years old….a little current thought went into it, hence the sensibility of protecting watercourses and the collection of fees…...good luck with voting change in these areas.
Ps. Are houses still selling for 500k in Whitehorse? Should probably get that sorted out.

B. Foster wrote:
11:57am Tuesday August 13, 2013

yukon_bear…..you shared quite a few things I wasn’t aware of. None of them surprise me. One thing our current govies are showing their adeptness at and that’s corporate ass kissing.

You talk good….do it more.

yukon_bear wrote:
10:57am Tuesday August 13, 2013

If you want to see how messed up our current and former ruling parties are just look at what they did to the forestry act.  They have made it harder and more expensive to extract RENEWABLE resources, than non renewable resources. 
  Some examples are,  there is a 30 meter buffer around all waterways for forestry, but in the mining act, they can push those trees and burry them.  Under the forestry act, loggers have to pay $2.26 royalties for every cord of wood cut. That is $2.26 for a product that has a $250 value.  Mining companies pay 12% after they have dug the ground up and destroyed the trees, but the first $10,000 of gold is free.
  What this government has shown is that they care not for the small person trying to make a living off the land in a sustainable manor.  They quite simply do not want anyone other than miners in the bush. And even then they do not want little guys digging for gold, they want big business and nothing else.
  I personally could care less what Mr. Kennedy has to say, but he is right. this government has made a mockery of democracy in the Yukon.  It has taken 5 years worth of OUR voices, OUR tax dollars, and disregarded it. 
  This government only cares if there is a multimillion dollar company ready to hire a small hand full of people to work at making them even more money.  And lets face it people, most of the skilled workers are coming from outside the territory, and leave when the season is over.
  Instead of trying to lure real business into the territory, that will employ us year round and pay a livable wage, they want us to except there ideas and forever change the landscape of one of the last true frontiers left on the face of this planet. 
  Mr. Kennedy may have echoed some of our concerns, but he is an outsider that has NO idea what it is to live in this, the last frontier left in North America.  I feel the same about our elected officials.
Want this to end?  Use you DEMOCRATIC right and vote these money mongers out of office and elect people that reflect the true concerns of Yukoners.

Alan wrote:
6:02pm Saturday August 10, 2013

thanks for agreeing with me and aligning with Whackadoodle Kennedy.
Also, thanks for searching out that article, well done!

aubie trice wrote:
3:29am Saturday August 10, 2013

It does not take a genius to see what kind of solutions are needed to work for a more balanced way of life in harmony with nature and the common good… Nor does it take one to see that the way big business is headed now, which includes those who wish to “create jobs” through resource extraction, is a dead end. Global Warming is real, and yes, true happiness for ourselves and others will never be found with more stuff. Pretty obvious once we start paying closer attention to our personal experience and look at the state of the world in the big picture. However all is not in vain there are all the real solutions out there we just need to implement them! Any of you who might think this is just a bunch of hippie trippy, grass eating kablooie, get your head out tha sand and look around with eyes that do not simply see your own personal welfare and which ideals or dogmas match whatever desires arise, nor in the name of your immediate family or friends or community or country; real change happens when we are free of the delusion that “ego” grasping brings… Aka caring for all sentient beings as we do ourselves. That does not mean we need to minimize ourselves or deny our needs or become unhappy, but we need to put all beings on an even playing field in our hearts, minds and actions.  A little flexibility in the way we think is needed, there is no rush to jump to conclusions or anything, but we desperately need to open our hearts and minds to other possibilities(and stop falling for a the BS we are being spoon fed by corrupt higher power structures.) What happens when you mix extreme views such as nihilism with too much self cherishing? situations like we are in now, where soon we will be forced to pay with our blood sweat and tears for every little thing, billions will continue to starve and we will not be any happier for it. Lets all do ourselves a big favor and wake up smile

Russell wrote:
3:37pm Friday August 9, 2013

Thank you skeptic. Praise Jesus!

Skeptic wrote:
2:38pm Friday August 9, 2013

Chill people. Did you not see Russel’s post. God told Noah it would be ok. So it shall be written so it shall be done fools.

Bill wrote:
9:48am Friday August 9, 2013

Actually, no one educated and respected questions vaccination programs because there is no scientific evidence to do so.

B. Foster wrote:
7:27am Friday August 9, 2013

Hey Alan, there are many well educated folks out there that question vaccination programs. You obviously have an unyielding blind faith in what you’re told by the mainstream. Personally I have way less faith in what humanity has to offer and an unwavering faith that what we have to offer lacks wisdom on a planetary scale wherein our species is destined to be the ones crapping in the sandbox. Call me a whackadoodle.

Also…when you provide a link to back up your statement, try to provide one to the actual article as opposed to just the site which requires further searching to find what you refer to.



B. Foster wrote:
7:08am Friday August 9, 2013

Sad to see so many with so little to offer smearing someone who has clearly been around the block a few times and is obviously passionate about his stance on the environment and willing to share what he knows, where he’s been and where he’d like to see things go.

Just Say'in wrote:
7:13pm Thursday August 8, 2013

I guess Gore, Kennedy, Trudeau flying around in their jets getting paid millions of dollars to tell us how bad we are is going to make everything better. I am sick and tired of the News media giving these guys a platform and if anyone disagrees with them then they are the ones who should be censored. The latest article is that a little girl from the overfunded climate exchange in Whitehorse flew all across Canada and the U.S. to have Gore teach her how to make a point. What was her carbon footprint of that adventure. I guess she can’t talk on the phone? Oh yeah Gore needs to get a big fee I forgot????

Bill wrote:
12:56pm Thursday August 8, 2013

“In 1983, Kennedy was arrested in a Rapid City, South Dakota Airport for heroin possession. A search of his carry-on bag uncovered 182 milligrams of the drug.[17] Upon entering a plea of guilty, Kennedy, then 29 years old, was sentenced to two years probation, periodic tests for drug use, treatment by joining Narcotics Anonymous, and 1,500 hours of community service by Presiding Judge Marshall P. Young.[17] In 1984, Kennedy’s brother David, who had himself struggled with a dependence to heroin for years, died of an overdose on cocaine and prescription medication.[18]”

Frankly, I’m surprised my and the Yukon Party aren’t getting along swimmingly.

Alan wrote:
11:56am Thursday August 8, 2013

Mr Kennedy, having lost credibility in the US brings his show to the Yukon or anywhere else gullible enough to pay his speaking fees.
How did he lose his credibility? He is a proponent of the anti-vaccine movement that says vaccines create autism, etc. The emagazine “Slate” did a good job of exposing him. Take a look at http://www.slate.com he is, a true wackadoodle.

Rorex21 wrote:
11:07am Thursday August 8, 2013

If all these want-to-be enviromentalists really want to stem the tide they need to focus on countries which are destroying the world. Making one national park in Canada is not going to prevent the enviromental devisation currently happening in China or the US. Mr. Kennedy should be in his own country preaching. Again despite popular opinion Canada is one of the green countries. Like in 2011 when everyone was supporting China as they lectured Canada on the enviroment thanks to the retarded Kyoto protocol which made measuring emmisions per capita what was important. I forgot thats how the enivorment works, on a per capita basis (sarcasm). Anyone who disagrees with me feel free to move to China because their emmisions per capita are lower we can talk in a couple of years when the enviromental incduced disease start to take hold.  Studies show that ecological foot print vs capacity is a far better measures. By those measures we are ranked the 8th greenest country in the world which makes a lot more sense. China is ranked last and the US second last with over a billion GHA deficit each. In fact the US and China alone count for half of the worlds ecological deficit.

Russell wrote:
10:47am Thursday August 8, 2013

Global warming is not real. Get educated people.

The reason is found in the story of Noah’s Ark in Genesis. God, who does not repent (Numbers 23:19), repented of having created mankind (Gen. 6:6). God instructed Noah to bring two of every kind of animal (Gen. 6:19-20), or maybe it was seven of the clean beasts and the birds (Gen. 7:2-3). It must have been a special blessing that Noah would know which beasts were clean, since the dietary laws wouldn’t be revealed for another eight hundred years – but I digress. God killed all living things with a flood except for Noah and his family and the creatures on the Ark (Gen. 7:21-22) and then promised Noah that no such thing would ever happen again (Gen. 9:11).

Rorex21 wrote:
10:13am Thursday August 8, 2013

@Lee Carruthers

Some of these resources we need are unrenewable. Sure we don’t need fossil fuels but we need minerals. Whether your using something made of plastic or metal, your using an unreneweable resource. Sure it can be recycled and reused but even that has limitations. I agree that private companies are benifiting from hidden public subsidies but what are you propsoing to fix that, are we going to make all roads private with toll boths? And while these enterprises use public roads they also pay taxes, whether its enough or not is up to debate. Perhaps the only real issue with our economy is our extremely low poluation density and the lack of some sort of carbon tax. Studies have shown with out a doubt the countires with low poluation density lack the economies of scale to compete in manufacturing. However due to the low poluation density abudant resources are likely. As such most countries start developing in resource extraction and move to manufacturing once reaching a certian size. Canada while not normally considered a developing country is relatively new and has yet to build a population size suitable for the speacilization into manufacturing.

It should also be noted that despite the negativity in the news Canada is still one of the greenest countires in the world. For example other countries like Denmark are being praised for getting 50% of thier electricty for renewable sources mean while Canada is critized yet already gets 63% of its electricty from renewable sources and another 14% from Nuclear. Here in the yukon its more like 90% of electricty comes from renewable resources. We do burn quite a bit of fossil fuel but most of this is in transportation and mining for new fossil fuels which are then sold to other countries who still need them. So there is a question of whom is to blame. Does supply create demand or demand create supply. I think the later.

Russell wrote:
9:45am Thursday August 8, 2013

Global Warming is a myth and dinosaurs never existed.

Riptide wrote:
9:03am Thursday August 8, 2013

I wasn’t aware that providing X amount of jobs was impoverishing the people. However I would bet that those employed making good money would disagree.

Max Mack wrote:
12:51am Thursday August 8, 2013

A rich, pampered American lecturing Yukoners on democracy? Ask Mr. Kennedy about the Cape Wind project and let’s really find out about his views on democracy . . .

Lee Carruthers wrote:
6:12pm Wednesday August 7, 2013

I was at the talk and noted that there was not a single person there from the Yukon-Con Party government. Dinosaurs of their ilk are soon going to find themselves left behind as the clean energy movement gathers strength. Kennedy said it right - Free Market Capitalism is the way of the future. Unfortunately for most multi-national corporations and their political shills, a true and SUSTAINABLE Free Market functions for the benefit of the greater community and the environment. It enriches everyone while maintaining a healthy environment that functions as our life-support system. It uses resources efficiently and functions effectively for all. A real Free Market requires people with money in their pockets and a sustainable source of resources, including the air we breathe and the food we eat.

The so-called free-market capitalism we now have is completely unsustainable. It is rapidly funneling all of the wealth to a very few while destroying the earth we all depend upon to stay alive. It is not based on efficient use of resources. It encourages waste and ignores the true costs of doing business. It can do that because it downloads most of those costs to the taxpayers, as hidden subsidies for itself. It is purely based on profit for a few. We now live in a state of carbon-based, corporate hegemony, facilitated by corrupt and pathetically misguided politicians. People are waking up to this and there will be change. Whether it is violent change or orderly change depends on many things. There will be change.

One more comment about energy. As mentioned above, fossil fuel based energy sources are very heavily (and stealthily) subsidized by forcing their costs onto taxpayers. Kennedy mentioned (as only a couple of examples) roads and the health care system as major subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Clean energy sources do not receive anywhere near those levels of subsidies. Once this becomes known and the political will is found, clean energy will naturally dominate the field – because it is so much more efficient, less harmful and economically positive for the greater community. There is plenty of money to be made in clean energy. Kennedy articulated this and we need to pay attention, for the sake of future generations.

BeenThere wrote:
5:12pm Wednesday August 7, 2013

It seems now that anything can be done for “jobs”. Wait a little while and I bet the resources will be stripped and there won’t have been any jobs for the local people. Think before natural resources are sacrificed to the highest bidder.

Apology Please Dixon... wrote:
4:58pm Wednesday August 7, 2013

A public apology from Dixon to Mr.Kennedy and all Yukoners is in order. I feel so ashamed that this kid is in our Government “Representing” us.

Spend more time listening and learning other points of view so you have the full picture and can better yourself and less time talking and drinking Dixon.

Sam Holloway wrote:
3:43pm Wednesday August 7, 2013

Was Currie there to hear Mr. Kennedy’s talk or out playing baseball?

Its nice to see Mr. Dixon dialing down his comments.  Its unfortunate that Mr. Dixon went on a rant during his first media interview about Mr. Kennedy’s comments.

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