MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada's Tsilhqot'in First Nation affirms mine "will never be accepted"

Published by MAC on 2010-10-10
Source: First Nations statements (2010-10-05)

The Tsilhqot'in First Nation is gathering increasing support for its implacable stand against the proposed Prosperity mine in Canada.

In response, the British Columbia premier has urged the federal government to endorse the project; while his junior mines minister, joined by a former Liberal parliamentarian, seem to be fomenting the very conflict they say they deplore.

For previous stories, see:  Canada: Tsilhqot'in Nation ready to defend its territory and

First Nations' Rights Need More Protection from Mining Activities

First Nations Summit Calls for Federal Government to Reject Prosperity Mine

First Nations Summit News Release

1 October 2010

First Nations Summit Passes Resolution Calling for the Federal Government to Reject the Prosperity Mine Proposal

Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver - First Nations leaders gathered this week in North Vancouver for the First Nations Summit Chiefs' Assembly have passed a resolution urging the federal government to reject the Taseko Ltd. Prosperity Mine proposal.

The unanimous resolution states:

Therefore Be It Resolved

1. That the First Nations Summit Chiefs in Assembly, including the Esketemc of the Northern Secwepemc and the Tsilhqot'in Nation, support the New Democratic Party's request that a Standing Committee be established to address the impacts of the Prosperity mine and appointed to address Cabinet.

2. The First Nations Summit Chiefs in Assembly fully support the efforts of First Nations to protect their lands of profound cultural and spiritual value to its peoples from the proposed Prosperity Copper-Gold mine, and will stand behind First Nations in defense of these lands regardless of the decision made by the Federal Government.

3. The First Nations Summit Chiefs in Assembly call upon the Federal Government to heed the cautions of its independent Panel, demonstrate commitment to environmental protection and the cultural survival of First Nations, and reject the proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine.

4. The First Nations Summit Chiefs in Assembly advise the Federal Government that First Nations across Canada are watching its decision to see whether there remains any value or integrity in environmental assessments for major projects, or whether First Nations must turn to litigation and other means to assert our rights and protect our cultures.

5. The First Nations Summit Chiefs in Assembly caution the Federal Government that approval of the proposed Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine, despite clear warnings of its independent Panel, would demonstrate utter disregard for the survival of First Nations as distinctive cultures within Canada.

A Federal Review Panel extensively reviewed Taseko Mines Limited's proposed $800 million Prosperity gold-copper mine at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), near Williams Lake BC and clearly indicated there would be 'significant adverse environmental effects' as a direct result of the proposed Prosperity Mine. The proposal would entail draining the lake to store waste tailings from the copper and gold processing operations and replacing the lake with an artificial one (Fish Lake is currently habitat to 90,000 rainbow trout and the artificial one would support 20,000 trout). The panel's findings are similar to those that ultimately led to the rejection of the Northgate Mineral's Kemess North proposal in 2007.

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The First Nations Summit speaks on behalf of First Nations involved in treaty negotiations in British Columbia. Further background information on the Summit may be found at http://www.fns.bc.ca.

For Further Information:
Colin Braker, First Nations Summit
Office: 604.926.9903/Cell: 604.328-4094


First Nations in BC Call for Resignation of Junior Mines Minister Hawes

Takla Lake First Nation Release

1 October 2010

Takla lake first nation Traditional Territory/Takla landing, BC. - A resolution introduced by the Carrier Sekani Tribal Council and Takla Lake First Nation calling for the resignation of BC Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes was passed today by the First Nations Summit Chiefs in assembly.

The resolution directs the First Nations Summit to communicate with Premier Gordon Campbell to seek assurance that his government will commit to work with First Nations to remediate historic contaminated mine sites, and also to amend provincial mining legislation to reflect the recognition of Aboriginal rights and title. It also calls on Minister Hawes to retract his remarks regarding First Nations in the Prince George Citizen and Globe and Mail. The resolution also asks Premier Gordon Campbell to accept the resignation of Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes immediately.

"Mr. Hawes is a serious obstacle to any hope of First Nations being able to work with government and industry to find a mutually acceptable and workable way forward on mining in BC," said Takla Lake member and CSTC Vice Tribal Chief Terry Teegee, who sponsored the resolution.

Takla Lake First Nation Chief Dolly Abraham, who seconded the motion, said, "This junior minister represents an outdated colonial approach to working with and understanding First Nations, which deems that we should be accepting whatever the government and mining industry want to do on our unceded lands. Investors and the mining industry should be concerned that they will not get any certainty with people like Hawes around."

"It is clear from his comments in response to an independent study conducted by Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic on mining effects experienced by the Takla Lake First Nation that Mr. Hawes believes there is no need to change anything - except to build more mines on our lands without our consent and in defiance of our rights," said Chief Abraham.

The Harvard study, "Bearing the Burden, the Effects of Mining on First Nations in British Columbia", was released on June 7, 2010 and states the urgent need for mining reforms in BC as the laws impact Aboriginal Rights and Title. It was attacked as "hogwash" and "completely flawed" by Mr. Hawes, who suggested Harvard "look in its
own backyard or concentrate on places with more egregious offences against indigenous people." These institutions examine issues of human rights violations, and work with communities that have a difficult or impossible task to defend their rights against governments and corporate interests. Canada has been criticized in the past, most recently by Amnesty International that the third-world conditions First Nations in Canada live in are due to historical racist policies that must be changed to meet the minimum standards outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which Canada has yet to unequivocally support.

Instead of promoting human dignity and the goals of the New Relationship Minister Randy Hawes is fuelling racist stereotypes and insults First Nations cultures every chance he gets. He's also ignoring the harm that mining has caused to many First Nations to date. He's gone on record saying, "Some First Nations reject mining for a more traditional lifestyle - those ways are linked to lower birth weights, higher birth rate deaths and lower life spans. Improving those outcomes requires sharing the wealth and jobs that come from mining." Such comments are not based on any facts, and insult all First Nations people who want to protect the environment for current and future generations. Studies on the west coast of BC are finding that First Nations returning to more traditional diets are reducing their risks to a variety of health issues that plague First Nations such as obesity and diabetes.

The Minister has refused to apologize or retract these comments, and indeed has gone on to compound them in his role as the BC Government's lead champion for Taseko Mines Ltd and its demonstrably unacceptable bid to replace the Xeni Gwet'in and the Tsilhqot'in Nation's Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and its environs with a massive open pit mine.

At a meeting in Williams Lake to promote the proposed mine, Mr Hawes is on record criticising the Tsilhqot'in for what he claimed was a case of "putting a lake before their kids."

Mr, Hawes also demonstrated sympathy for, rather than condemning, anger against First Nations for opposing the mine with the following reported quote: "If this mine doesn't go, there are going to be some very severe racial problems because a lot of the people, who are counting on this mine and are looking at it for hope, are going to blame the aboriginal community." The Tsilhqot'in National Government immediately wrote to Mining Energy and Petroleum Resources Minister Bill Bennett calling for Mr. Hawes resignation.

CSTC Vice Tribal Chief and Chief Abraham said other jurisdictions in Canada, in particular Ontario, have embarked on mining reforms as a result of their antiquated laws, which have caused conflicts with First Nations and mining exploration companies. In 2008, seven Algonquin Aboriginal leaders went to jail rather than accept mining projects they decided would cause irreparable damage to the environment and their Aboriginal and Treaty Rights. An appeal court that ordered the release of the chief and council of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug in Northern Ontario and a leader of the Ardoch Algonquins in Eastern Ontario (who all became known as the KI7) cited the province's antiquated mining legislation as part of the problem.

"Mr. Hawes statements leave us convinced that he can only be an obstacle to any meaningful change in BC," said Vice Tribal Chief Teegee. "His continuing role as junior minister for mines is an affront to First Nations, and as long as the government keeps him in this role, it is endorsing and condoning his views," noted Chief
Abraham.

Media contacts: Vice Tribal Chief Terry Teegee at tteegee@cstc.bc.ca (250) 640-3256.

Background information available at http://www.cstc.bc.ca


Premier Campbell's Pitch for Mine as sign of Desperation

Tsilhqot'in National Government Release

5 October 2010

WILLIAMS LAKE, BC - Premier Gordon Campbell's demand at speech to BC municipalities that the federal government approve the proposed Prosperity mine is more proof that he has abandoned all interest in doing what is right and may be desperate to save his political future, Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman of the
Tsilhqot'in National Government said today.

"It is increasingly easy to believe that the New Relationship that once gave BC First Nations so much hope was merely a ploy by Premier Gordon Campbell to buy peace for the 2010 Winter Olympics," said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Tsilhqot'in people of Xeni Gwet'in. "Certainly his speech Friday night demonstrated a total abandonment of any recognition of First Nations Rights and of any desire to work with them to find a path forward to create a sustainable mining industry in BC."

"If Premier Campbell is now acting out of a desperate bid to generate a provincial-federal battle that will divert public attention from the HST issue* and growing recall efforts, regardless of the harm and injustices that could result, then our disappointment in him is even more intense," said Chief Percy Guichon, Tsi Deldel.

In his speech Friday, the Premier promoted the fallacy that this specific mine project is the way forward for mining in BC. In doing so he tacitly endorsed the view that BC must approve any mine, no matter how destructive of the environment and no matter how abusive of First Nations rights and culture.

"It was in effect an endorsement of the way of the past, where companies came in to destroy what they wanted to get at whatever they wanted, with the government's blessing," said Chief Frances Laceese, Tl'esqox.

As the premier noted, BC is indeed so rich in mineral resources. So why has this government chosen as its poster child a project that involved such low-grade copper and gold deposits that only the company feels it is profitable to access it is to destroy our sacred lakes and ecosystem and 35 sq km of some of the most pristine and beautiful wilderness area in BC with a self-sustaining wild rainbow trout fishery that this same BC government promotes as one of the top 10 fishing spots in BC.

"Even many in the mining industry privately question why the BC government would have chosen such a clearly incendiary project to champion. Could it really be that political donation lines to the BC party have played a role in this?" said Chief Marilyn Baptiste.

It defies logic that this premier, who in the past has claimed to understand the issues facing First Nations and the need to resolve them in BC, would not be able to recognize that this project is in fact the last one his government should be approving.

"His government's rubberstamping of this mine proposal was, to be blunt, a joke. Either it had abandoned all of its previous principles, which led it to deny a small lodge expansion in this same area to save the environment and respect First Nations rights, or it only rejected that lodge expansion to make life easier down the road
Taseko Mines to come in and destroy the area," said Chief Percy Guichon.

The First Nations of BC and Canada have pledged their support to the Tsilhqot'in Nation to fight this mine should federal approval be given. A green light from Ottawa would ensure that all trust and cooperation is lost and all the good work being done by responsible companies to work with first nations to develop responsible projects
will be set back. This so called "Prosperity" proposal is not only a poorly named insult to First Nations, but also to all mining companies who believe we need to find a better way forward.

BC and Taseko mines were informed as far back 1995 by top federal fisheries and Oceans officials that any proposal that would kill off Teztan Biny is unacceptable and something that could never be approved, DFO even advised BC and the company to stop wasting time and money and only come back if they had a proposal that would not destroy this lake and its ecosystem.

"Far from now endorsing the BC government's untenable actions and decision, the federal cabinet is duty bound to distance itself from them and to exercise its obligations to reject this specific proposal," said Chief Francis Laceese. Indeed the findings of the CEAA panel report now place a clear constitutional duty on the federal government to protect our rights by rejecting this project.

"It certainly is not the federal government's job to base its decision on whether or not it will help Gordon Campbell," said Chief Joe Alphonse.

"Its duty is to enforce the constitutional, legal and moral obligations that Premier Campbell is urging it to ignore, and to avert the confrontation and major setback to the future of mining that would accompany approval of this project: a project that cannot and will never be accepted by the Tsilhqot'in and first Nations everywhere," said Chief Joe Alphonse.

To view a video of our lake, visit:
http://www.raventrust.com/projects/fishlaketeztanbiny/video-bluegold.html

For further information:

Media Inquiries:

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, Tsilhqot'in National Government: (250) 305-8282 or (250) 394-4212
Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Xeni Gwet'in  First Nations Government: (250) 267-1401 or (250) 394-7023 ext. 202

* Editorial note - HST refers to the introduction of a Harmonized Sales Tax, integrating federal (GST - Goods and Services Tax) and provincial sales tax into a single value-added tax, expanding the application of the taxes and in some areas making them more visible to consumers, has sparked a popular revolt against British Columbia's ruling Liberals. The fact that the tax was introduced shortly after premier Gordon Campell and the Liberals were elected, promising 'no new taxes', provoked widespread resentment. The revolt is taking the form of a recall campaign against Liberal members of the legislature, led by former Social Credit premier Bill Vander Zalm who himself resigned over a corruption scandal in 1991. Premier Campbell's popularity has plummeted and presumably he would welcome any diversion.


Williams Lake politician's comments 'offensive' as natives protest mine site

By Suzanne Fournier

The Province

5 October 2010

Former Liberal MLA Walt Cobb says he doesn't care if his predictions of a backlash over native protests - or his comments that natives don't want to work - seem inflammatory or "racist."

Cobb predicted Tuesday there will be a direct backlash, possibly violent, against the Tsil'quotin Nation if its members succeed in blocking development of the proposed Taseko Prosperity gold and copper mine near Williams Lake.

Cobb, now head of the Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce, charged Tuesday:

"Some of these people, and some of their leaders, don't want to work and they don't want their people to work or to prosper on the reserve."

Cobb said he stands by similar remarks he made to the Aboriginal Peoples' Television Network on Monday.

"That's exactly what I meant," Cobb told The Province Tuesday.

"Time and time again, when they don't get their way, they yell ‘racism!'

"This isn't about racism, it's about jobs.

"When people are frustrated, anything can happen. And violence can happen on both sides.

"People in Williams Lake are out of work. People are losing homes. People are losing cars and they have to move away because there is no work.

"To have this project blocked, there could be serious backlash."

Cobb said that in his view, First Nations "want the resources, they want the welfare, but they don't want to have to pay for them."

Chief Bill Wilson and his spouse - Chief Bev Sellars, of the Xat'sull First Nation (Soda Creek) - are among First Nations leaders who say they find Cobb's comments "deeply offensive."

"Cobb is not contributing to the debate. He's just fanning the flames of racism," said Wilson, a former leader of the First Nations Summit.

"He crossed the line with his comments on TV, right in front of the Chamber of Commerce office, as though he was speaking for everyone and warning First Nations to back off or else."

Wilson said he plans to go to RCMP with concerns about whether Cobb's words are actionable or constitute a hate crime against First Nations.

Cobb also has written in local newspapers that halting the mine would cause "political damage to Conservative MPs in the Interior" and to area mayors.

And he charges that such a move would be seen as "government caving in to First Nations bullying and intimidation tactics" and would be "like giving them a veto, anytime."

The Tsilhqot'in oppose the Taseko Mines Ltd. plan to construct an open-pit gold and copper mine, which would require the draining of Fish Lake.

The lake - considered sacred by local First Nations, who call it Teztan Biny - is home to thousands of rainbow trout.

Taseko would need to drain the lake, both to use the water and for a tailings dump.

The federal cabinet will ultimately decide the project's fate. A decision is expected at any time.

Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation filed a B.C. Supreme Court action in June claiming the right to harvest the resources of Fish Lake, and arguing that the proposed Prosperity mine, about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, would create a mine tailings and waste dump that would destroy Teztan Biny.

Baptiste - who told reporters earlier that she had "an elder in a wheelchair . . . with shotguns" who would barricade mine development - now claims she was not serious, and that First Nations people will not use violence to oppose the mine.


Does Ottawa Agree With Mr. Cobb and Mr. Hawes?

Fish Lake Decision will Reveal True Nature of Harper Government

News release from Tsilhqot'in National Government

7 October 2010

WILLIAMS LAKE, BC - The Tsilhqot'in Nation today called on the federal government to distance itself from the offensive remarks and warnings of violence by Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce president Walter Cobb - the latest in a growing number of verbal attacks coming from some prominent supporters of the proposed Prosperity Mine.

"How the federal government rules on the fate of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) will reveal a lot about its true character, the positions it agrees with, and its respect for the law, the environment and its constitutional duties to First Nations," said Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse of Tl'etinqox-T'in.

Describing the choice for the federal government, Marilyn Baptiste, Chief of the Tsilhqot'in People of Xeni said: "We have the CEAA review panel report's damning findings about this project, the precedents for rejecting projects based on such reports, the negative findings over 15 years from DFO, the support of First Nations, environmental groups, rights groups and individuals from across Canada, many concerned citizens in Williams Lake, and even the BC government's own previous rulings on the need to protect this environment and First Nations rights from destructive projects."

"On the other hand we have an alliance between the BC government and Taseko that seeks to turn these beautiful precious lands and waters into a 35 sq km wasteland, because with current technology the company says the only way to make a profit from the low grade ore is to destroy everything. Apparently its arguments are so poor that it must result to having mine supporters like Mr. Cobb and Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes trying to champion the mine by making derogatory - even racist - comments about First Nations and issuing statements that some extremists might see as condoning violence against us," said Chief Percy Guichon of the Tsilhqot'in People of Tsi Deldel.

The TNG has stated it is ready to defend its lands against the company should an unjust ruling be made, but its position would be aimed at preventing Taseko Mines and the BC government from proceeding with work - especially while major court cases regarding First Nations rights are still before the courts. Taking action against the people of Williams Lake has never been a consideration.

"On the other hand, prominent mine champions Mr. Cobb and Mr. Hawes and like-minded proponents who appear to be working closely with the company, are treating this as a personal battle against First Nations and trying to incite non-aboriginal people with disgraceful insults about our people and by raising the prospect of violence against us and not condemning it," said Chief Marilyn Baptiste.

The TNG has tried to ignore Mr. Cobb's attacks in the past - even though he heads the Chamber of Commerce, and is a former Liberal MLA and so he has connections - because the TNG knows that he does not represent the majority view in Williams Lake. "But his latest statements, made on camera in front of the Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce and repeated again for print media, and those of some other leading campaigners for the mine, can no longer be ignored," said Chief Joe Alphonse.

"When combined with similar comments by Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes and others, it is clear that some of those most closely identified as working with Taseko Mines to promote this project have a derogatory view of First Nations and consider them to be an obstacle to be removed, not people with rights that need to be addressed."

Chief Percy Guichon of the Tsilhqot'in People of Tsi Deldel said: "We believe most people realize that we oppose the mine because it would destroy pristine wilderness environment, a sacred and richly populated fishing lake, Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), and a way of life for our people who have lived here for countless generations, and not because we do not want work, as Mr. Cobb has stated, or because we do not care for our children, as Mr. Hawes has stated.

"But there may be some who see this total disregard for First Nations rights, cultures and environment based values and these comments about violence as a justification against First Nations should the mine be rejected."

In a video-taped interview with APTN, which aired on Oct. 4, Mr. Cobb stated: "I have heard some pretty serious things that might take place if this project does not go ahead - I don't want to even suggest that these things might happen. Do I understand where this is coming from? Yes. It is frustration."

A few weeks earlier at a meeting with the Chamber, Junior Mines Minister Hawes made a similar statement and was quoted in a local paper as saying: "If this mine doesn't go, there are going to be some very severe racial problems because a lot of the people, who are counting on this mine and are looking at it for hope, are going to blame the aboriginal community."

Mr. Cobb and Mr. Hawes are not the only ones who have tried to dismiss the dire findings of serious and irreparable harm by the CEAA review panel and belittle First Nations and others who oppose this proposed mine, which the federal Department of fisheries and Oceans has warned since 1995 would be unacceptable if it killed Teztan Biny.

Earlier this summer, Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resource minister described the lake that is sacred to the Tsilhqot'in, is one of the top ten catch-and-release fishing lakes in BC, and has been featured on BC tourism brochures as "shallow," "mucky" and a "pothole." He is also on record dismissing those who fight to save the land and water as "eco-fascists."

Premier Gordon Campbell has so far refused to distance himself from such comments. In a speech Oct, 1 to the Union of BC Municipalities, Mr. Campbell abandoned all pretence of caring about his once much vaunted New Relationship with First Nations and simply delivered the company line on this proposal and demanded Ottawa approve it.

Attached: Chronology of some of the comments from Mr. Hawes, Cobb and others in promoting this mine.

Chronology - Sample of statements by prominent mining champions in recent months

1. Reported by the Canadian Press, June 16, 2010: Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes's response to an independent study by renowned Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic, which identified needed reforms to a mining system stacked against first nations in BC. "To be blunt, I think the report is hogwash," said Mr. Hawes, questioning why Harvard doesn't look in its own backyard or concentrate elsewhere in the world where there are egregious impacts on indigenous people....While he noted that some First Nations reject mining for a more traditional lifestyle, he also said traditional ways are linked to lower birth weights, higher birth rate deaths and lower life spans.

2. Taseko Mines Ltd. President and CEO Russell Hallbauer. July 6 call with investment analysts on future of prosperity project. In response to question about First Nations rights issues and ramifications. "That's the government's problem."

3. BC's Minister of Mines, Energy and Petroleum Bill Bennett, quoted in July 8 Globe and Mail story on the Prosperity mine proposal by Justine Hunter, gives his view of Fish Lake, which is sacred to First Nations, is one BC's top ten catch-and -release fishing areas, and was featured on BC tourism brochures. "This is a tiny little pothole of a lake...a shallow, mucky lake with too many small rainbows in it."

4. Minister Bennett's view of environmentalists: July 12, Globe and Mail, report by Pat Brethour: "We either stand strong together against the loss of the Flathead Valley to the eco facists [sic], or we will lose the Flathead. I am there, if you are there," he (Bennett) writes in an e-mail sent Monday and obtained by The Globe and Mail.

5. Junior Mines Minster Hawes, at Aug. 26 meeting. 100 Mile House Free Press Aug. 31: "I don't understand why they would put [Fish Lake] ahead of their future for their kids." And: "As the mayor of Williams Lake said, if this mine doesn't go, there are going to be some very severe racial problems because a lot of the people, who are counting on this mine and are looking at it for hope, are going to blame the aboriginal community."

6. Williams Lake Mayor Kerry Cook disputes Hawes' comments: 100 Mile House Free Press. Sept. 14: "Williams Lake council has clearly stated our support for this project and we understand there are groups and individuals who do not agree with our position. However, this is not, and should not be construed to be a racial issue."

7. Walter Cobb: APTN Oct. 4: Evening News. On tape: "They don't want to workŠSome of those leaders seem to not want their people to work or prosper on the reserve." And: "If this mine doesn't go, there are going to be some very severe racial problems because a lot of the people, who are counting on this mine and are looking at it for hope, are going to blame the aboriginal community."

Walter Cobb: Vancouver Province Oct. 5: Cobb said he stands by similar remarks he made to the Aboriginal Peoples' Television Network on Monday. "That's exactly what I meant," Cobb told The Province Tuesday....Cobb said that in his view, First Nations "want the resources, they want the welfare, but they don't want to have to pay for them."

For further information:

Media Inquiries: Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman, Tsilhqot'in National Government: (250) 305-8282 or (250) 394-4212. Chief Percy Guichon, Tsi Deldel: (250) 267-2507 or (250) 481-1163 ext.17

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