Canadian indigenous women passionately demand mining justicePublished by MAC on 2017-08-21
Source: NB Media Coop, MiningWatch Canada
Last week, Canadian mining officials held their annual meeting with Indigenous communities, at which they heard passionate concerns from women, likely to be profoundly impacted by the proposed new Sisson tungsten and molybdenum mine in New Brunswick - and in particular from its tailings dam.
A petition signed by 40,000 people, organised by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and MiningWatch Canada, was also delivered to the Minister for Natural Resources, demanding "Justice" in relation to the massive Mt Polley spill.
Jacinda Mack, coordinator of First Nation Women Advocating Responsible Mining, addressed the meeting, She herself is a survivor of the Mt Polley tailings disaster, about which her mother had filed charges just before the time limit for so doing expired earlier this month (see: Mt Polley disaster has been allowed to contine for three years).
Declared Jacinda Mack:" It's struggle but it’s also about love. Don’t forget your love story. With every love story, there’s heartache.”
“To say I did all I could:” Jacinda Mack
Pain of Mount Polley spill felt in New Brunswick
NB Media Coop
18 August 2017
Ekpahak/Fredericton – Jacinda Mack, a Nuxalk and Secwepemc woman from British Columbia, was on the unceded Wolastoq and Passamaquoddy territories in New Brunswick in August to intervene at the annual meeting of Ministers responsible for mining and to meet with indigenous communities and those concerned with the proposed Sisson mine near Stanley. Mack is a survivor of the catastrophic Mount Polley mine waste spill in the Quesnel watershed, home of birthing waters of salmon and other fish.
The Mount Polley spill, what the industry and government dubbed an “impossible event,” occurred in the middle of the night on August 4, 2014. Mack said the breach of the tailings dam sounded like jet engines flying overhead. An estimated 24 billion litres of toxic slurry of mud and water, scoured old growth forest for 10 kilometres. Mack described the affected area: “Willow trees that grow everywhere weren’t growing in the creekside.”
No one was killed in the largest tailings spill in North American history unlike the world’s largest tailings spill that happened about a year after the Mount Polley spill. The Samarco tailings disaster in Brazil on November 5, 2015 killed 19 people, devastated the River Doce and spilled into the Atlantic Ocean.
For Mack and the people of Xatśūll First Nation, the spill was received as a death in the community: “Our people are grieving. My grandchildren will never know what it’s like to swim and fish in Quesnel Lake. That’s their inheritance, part of our bloodline now.”
There has been a three-year fight to have Imperial Metals, the company behind the Mount Polley tailings spill, fined for numerous violations to British Columbia and Canadian laws protecting fish and water. Mack said it was up to her mother, Bev Sellars, former Chief of the Xatśūll First Nation, to file charges as a private citizen in the eleventh hour, before the three-year time limit was up for fining the company for the incident.
“Our economy walks on the land and swims in the river,” Mack quoted her mother while showing a picture of Sellars dip net fishing in the Quesnel watershed in 1980. The mine has been permitted to continue dumping their waste into Quesnel Lake by the B.C. government.
Mack, coordinator of First Nation Women Advocating Responsible Mining, was part of a delegation organized by the Conservation Council of New Brunswick and MiningWatch Canada that hand-delivered a petition with 40,000 signatures calling for justice for the Mount Polley spill to Minister of Natural Resources Jim Carr at the Ministers’ meeting in St. Andrews on August 14.
Joining Mack at the Ministers’ meeting was Wolastoq Grand Council Chief Ron Tremblay and Ramona Nicholas, one of the Wolastoqiyik grandmothers who has set up a camp where the Sisson tungsten and molybdenum mine’s tailings pond is proposed to be built.
The Sisson project proposes to build a modified centreline dam, similar to the Mount Polley dam that failed. According to a new report by Dr. David Chambers of the Center for Science in Public Participation, there are several concerns with the current design of the Sisson tailings pond that have yet to be addressed by the provincial and federal governments in their approval of the mine’s environmental assessments.
The Wolastoqiyik grandmothers have dug a well and plan to build two more at their camp site. Nicholas said the camp is not just about opposing the mine but reconnecting with the land, which is the traditional hunting territory of the Wolastoqiyik people, home to food and medicines. The camp has received support from the community in form of cash, food and water donations. Mack visited the grandmothers at the camp on August 15.
“I want to be able to look my children and grandchildren in the eye and to say I did all I could to protect the land and water,” said Mack who left her home near Williams Lake (currently surrounded by raging forest fires) to share her community’s struggles with mining.
A grandmother in the audience at Mack’s talk on August 14 at St. Mary’s First Nation Cultural Centre expressed frustration: “I’m just a grandmother. What can I do to stop the mine and spraying of the forest? The corporations are so powerful.” Joan Green, a retired teacher from Fredericton, responded that people in New Brunswick were able to stop shale gas.
Mack shared specifics of the Mount Polley tailings disaster in attempt to stop another “Mount Polley” from happening while also reminding her audiences to not forget about the love that is crucial to every struggle. Mack said her love story is about salmon fishing with her son: “It’s a struggle but it’s also about love. Don’t forget your love story. With every love story, there’s heartache.”
Mines Ministers Meeting Falls Short of Meaningful Progress on Environment and Indigenous Rights
21 August 2017
Indigenous communities and advocacy groups are disappointed and concerned about the outcomes of Canada’s 2017 Energy & Mines Ministers Conference, which ended last week in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.
“None of the 200 pages of documents and 11 priority action points coming out of this conference even include the words ‘Indigenous rights,’ ‘consent,’ ‘mining wastes,’ ‘tailings,’ risks of ‘spills,’ or ‘failures.’ Frankly, this is troubling and disconcerting given the are serious concerns many of our communities have,” states Jacinda Mack, coordinator of First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM). “We expect governments to take meaningful actions to address issues squarely.” Mack’s community was devastated by the Mount Polley disaster in British Columbia in 2014—the biggest mining spill in Canada.
Grand Chief Ron Tremblay of the Traditional Wolastoq Grand Council in New Brunswick: “The outcome of the meeting is even more disturbing for our people given that the Trudeau government committed to work towards reconciliation and to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, including the right to free, prior and informed consent.”
Jacinda Mack of FNWARM delivered a 40,000-strong SumOfUs petition to Jim Carr, Federal Minister of Natural Resources, urging the Trudeau government not to let Imperial Metals off the hook and enforce the federal Fisheries Act over Mount Polley mining disaster.
Sisson Mine: No Consent, Not Economically Viable
Grand Chief Tremblay of the Traditional Wolastoq Grand Council is concerned about closing remarks made last week to the media by Federal and Provincial Ministers Jim Carr and Rick Doucet about the massive Sisson Mine Project in Wolastoq territory, New Brunswick: “Contrary to what the Ministers said, five out of six affected Wolastoq Indigenous communities did not consent to the project. The Accommodation Agreement referred to by the Ministers set, at best, the terms with the Province in case of the project goes ahead, but certainly does not support or give consent to the project.”
The Traditional Grand Council also points out that the Agreement was signed under threat from the Province to not renew other long-standing tax sharing agreements for HST, petroleum, tobacco, and lottery revenues essential to the communities.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency concluded that the project would result in ‘significant adverse environmental effects’ on the rights of Wolastoq communities. This Sisson Project is not economically viable and its feasibility studies use unrealistic, overestimated prices for tungsten—twice as high as current world market levels.
Ministers Pressed To Listen To Those Affected By Mines
Indigenous communities and advocacy groups urge Federal, Provincial and Territorial Mines Ministers to open dialogue and listen to those affected by mines in Canada or by Canadian mining companies working abroad. Ugo Lapointe from MiningWatch Canada: “You won’t change mining practices and you won’t get the best policies and laws if you don’t meaningfully listen to those that are the most negatively affected by this industry.”
“Canada must adhere to its international human rights obligations, such as those outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” says Tara Scurr from Amnesty International Canada. “Canada has been taken to task at the United Nations many times for failing to fulfil its obligations in the context of resource extraction. Canada’s Mines Ministers cannot ignore this responsibility.”
The groups intend to pressure the Ministers to open new spaces for meaningful discussions, actions and measures to be taken ahead of the next Mines Ministers Meeting in Nunavut, in 2018.
The groups want to extend their gratitude for all those who took time to meet them this week, including: Wolastoq Grand Council; Wolastoqiqyik Grandmothers at their camp on the proposed Sisson site; Maliseet Nation Conservation Council; New Brunswick MLAs David Coon (Green Party) and Kirk MacDonald (Progressive Conservative); and the staff from the New Brunswick Departments of Environment, Energy and Resources Development, Health, and Aboriginal Affairs.
Grand Chief Ron Tremblay, Traditional Wolastoq Grand Council, 506-455-1577
Ramona Nicholas, Wolastoqiqyik Grandmothers, 506-426-1887
Jacinda Mack, First Nation Women Advocating for Responsible Mining, 250-302-9134
Ugo Lapointe, MiningWatch Canada, 514-708-0134
Tara Scurr, Amnesty International Canada, 250-703-1141
Tracy Glynn, Conservation Council of New Brunswick, 506-458-8747, 506 440-5592
Joan Kuyek, Independent Mining Analyst, 613-795-5710
Dr. David Chambers, Center for Science in Public Participation, 406-585-9854
Jackie McVicar, United for Mining Justice, 902-324-2584