MAC: Mines and Communities

Canada's Taseko Mines slammed for attack on Aboriginal rights

Published by MAC on 2012-05-08
Source: Statement, Williams Lake Tribune (2012-05-01)

It's been one of the hardest-fought battles for First Nations' rights in recent Canadian history.

Even though the Tsilghot'in have expressed unequivocal opposition to the Taseko mine,  the government is still failing to uphold Aboriginal interests.

Meanwhile, the mining company has stooped to an outrageous attack on the spiritual heritage of the community.

Previous article on MAC: Canada: The Tsilqhot'in take on Taseko for a second time

Taseko Mines Ltd. slammed for offensive attack on Aboriginal participation in Prosperity Mine review

Tsilhqot'in National Government Press Release

1 May 2012

TSILHQOT'IN TERRITORY, BC - A deeply offensive letter from Taseko Mines Ltd (TML) to the Harper government, urging Environment Minister Kent to impose new limits on First Nations participation and remove key Aboriginal concerns from the review of its rebid Prosperity Mine proposal, raises fears that the company's lobbying could reduce the federal review to a version of British Columbia's weak "rubberstamp" process that approved TML's first, discredited bid.

In a recently obtained Nov. 23, 2011 letter to Minister Kent, TML President and CEO Russell Hallbauer urges Minister Kent to:

Prohibit Aboriginal prayers or ceremonies at the start of Panel hearings - even though this is a matter of basic respect by governments and tribunals when engaging with First Nations;

Impose new limits on our communities' ability to expressing their views, including those of our youth, whose future is at stake, and by banning videos and other commentaries and;

Prevent the Panel from considering the spiritual importance of the area to the Tsilhqot'in people, even though this is central to our culture.

The profound spiritual importance of this area to the Tsilhqot'in people was a significant factor in the decision of the federal panel that reviewed the original Prosperity Mine proposal.

That proposal was soundly rejected by the Federal Government in November 2010, in part based on permanent, high magnitude impacts on Tsilhqot'in culture and cultural heritage.

"This is a black eye to the mining industry and we hope it is not one it would endorse, but we are not surprised that Mr. Hallbauer would write such an offensive letter," said Chief Alphonse. "We have warned over and over again that this company does not understand or respect First Nations or our issues. This letter proves, once again, that this is the wrong project, in the wrong place, by the wrong company."

Mr. Hallbauer's letter underscores concerns raised earlier by TML's campaign to prevent the new Panel from deciding the significance of impacts on Aboriginal rights. The previous Panel concluded that the original Project would have significant impacts on Tsilhqot'in Aboriginal rights.

First Nations are alarmed that the draft Terms of Reference for the new Panel, which are expected to be finalized any day, would drastically reduce or even remove the new Panel's mandate to consider impacts on Aboriginal rights.

Chief Alphonse added: "What concerns us is this letter is part of a major lobbying campaign by TML, which had three lobbyists registered in Ottawa on this file. The failure of CEAA or the government to assure us the rules of the game are not going to be changed for this second review - which should never have been granted in the first place - obviously makes us wonder if we should be worried that the fix is in."

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, stated "First Nations were deeply alarmed by the Harper Government's recent announcement to eviscerate the federal Environmental Assessment process as part of their Responsible Resource Development Plan.

If the draft Terms of Reference for the new Panel, which are expected to be finalized any day, drastically reduce or even remove the new Panel's mandate to consider impacts on Aboriginal rights, it will result in greater uncertainty and intensified conflict on the land."

Chief Baptiste said: "Mr. Harper's government lived up to its responsibility to the environment and its constitutional duty to protect First Nations rights by rejecting the first bid in 2010 and it surely has no choice but to do so again. However, it did take the unprecedented step of allowing this second kick at the can for TML, even though the new option was described by the first review panel, TML itself, and Environment Canada as posing even greater environmental risk than the original plan.

"Add to this the fact that the government is pushing through sweeping changes to the EA process in general, to the Fisheries Act, and now we have this letter from TML, and yes, we are concerned," said Chief Baptiste, "But this letter shows what we are up against. We will not be silenced and we will not back down. This government endorsed the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we know that all of Canada is watching what happens here".

Link to Letter from Taseko Mines Ltd. to Minister Peter Kent:
http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/files/20111123_Hallbauer_Kent_AboriginalParticipation.pdf

For further information:

Media contacts:
Chief Joe Alphonse - 250-305-8282 or 250-394-4212
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip - 250-490-5314
Chief Marilyn Baptiste - 250-267-1401 (after 12 noon, Pacific)


No amount of money could replace loss

Williams Lake Tribune

1 May 2012

Editor:

When it comes to life - all life - it is water and land that sustain all, no matter who you are.

This is central to the Tsilhqot'in people's position that there can be no give and take when it comes to protecting Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and the surrounding ecosystem (Yanah Biny [Little Fish Lake] and Nabas) from an utterly destructive revised mine proposal - a bid that is in fact based on Option 2 in the original Prosperity Mine bid, which the former 2010 CEAA review panel, Taseko Mines Limited and Environment Canada all agreed had greater environmental risk than the plan that was ultimately rejected.

While this proposal might be all about money for Taseko Mines Limited, for us it is about life and future generations. No amount of money could replace what would be lost.

Of course, the issue of rights is also crucial to us.

The same CEAA panel in 2010 reported that our current and future rights would be irreparably harmed, and noted that the incredible cultural importance of this area would be lost for the Tsilhqot'in whether or not Teztan Biny is somehow kept on life support in the middle of a massive open-pit mining operation.

In 2010 the federal government did the only thing it could honourably do under its responsibility to the environment and its constitutional duty to protect First Nations rights, and rejected this proposed mine. With continuing immitigable impacts to the environment, fish and grizzly habitat and aboriginal use now and in the future, it must do so again.

This project is not the only option for Williams Lake or the Tsilhqot'in. As Williams Lake's mayor said during the recent municipal election, there are many other projects and options for the city and region, and indeed the Tsilhqot'in Nation continues to work towards other economic opportunities.

It might be easy for some to say that the Tsilhqot'in should step aside, but one wonders if they would do so if this project were to be built in Williams Lake and threatened their water and land, instead of out of the town's sight, 125 kilometres away.

Chief Marilyn Baptiste
Xeni Gwet'in First Nations Government

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