MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Canadian First Nation may now finally win "battle of the lake"

Published by MAC on 2019-09-07
Source: Tsilhquot'in nation, Star Vancouver

For well over a decade an indigenous First Nation in Canada has waged the struggle to prevent mineral plunder of a sacred lake, deemed critical for its survival - in all senses of the term [see: Tsilhquoti'n says mine will never be accepted]

The Tsilhquot'in battle against Taseko Mines must surely rank as one of most consisent and militant of its kind.

Not only have some successive governments (though not all) backed the community;  theTsilhquot'in have gained support from fellow Aboriginal organisations around the country.

Following a recent  road block by the First Nation, the British Columbia Supreme Court has now prohibited Taseko Mines from advancing its exploratory drilling at the lake, until the Tsilhqot'in's indigenous rights have been expounded and - hopefully - finally upheld.

Tŝilhqot’in Nation Welcomes Injunction Halting Taseko Drilling Program

 TŜILHQOT’IN NATIONAL GOVERNMENT

253 – 4th Avenue North - Williams Lake, BC V2G 4T4 - Phone (250)
392-3918 - Fax (250) 398-5798

Media Release

6 September 2019

Williams Lake, BC: The Tŝilhqot’in Nation welcomes the decision by the BC Supreme Court today, granting an injunction that prohibits Taseko Mines Ltd. (TML) from moving forward with its exploratory drilling program in Teẑtan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabaŝ (the surrounding area).

The BC Liberal Government granted Taseko a drilling permit in July 2017, on its last day in power. The drilling program aims to advance the New Prosperity Mine – despite the fact that the Federal Government rejected New Prosperity in 2014 and the mine cannot be built as a result. The Federal Government rejected New Prosperity in part because of significant and unavoidable impacts on Tŝilhqot’in culture, heritage and rights.

Teẑtan Biny and Nabaŝ is an area of profound cultural and spiritual importance for the Tŝilhqot’in peoples. Two independent expert panels have confirmed the unique and special significance of this area for the Tŝilhqot’in as a place of ceremony and healing, as an active cultural school, as a resting place for ancestors, and as highly valued hunting, trapping and gathering grounds. It is also one of few areas in Canada subject to a court declaration of proven Aboriginal rights.

The Tŝilhqot’in Nation will now have its day in court to prove at trial that the drilling program represents an unjustified infringement of its proven Aboriginal rights. In the meantime, today’s judgment protects Teẑtan Biny and Nabaŝ from disruption and degradation by TML before a full hearing of this important constitutional issue.

Quotes

Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman of the Tŝilhqot’in National Government:

“The judgment of the BC Supreme Court today reinforces that New Prosperity is a dead project and will never proceed. Taseko has been nothing but disrespectful and the message to them here today is loud and clear – stop threatening our cultural and sacred lands because it’s a battle they aren’t ever going to win. That is the way of the past. Industry needs to work with First Nations on projects that support our vision and our way of life; that’s the only way. Taseko is the poster child for what industry should not and cannot do.”

Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Russell Myers Ross, Vice-Chair, Tŝilhqot’in National Government:

“The BC Supreme Court’s decision today is a victory for the Nation as this matter continues to unfold in court. Through the Dasiqox Tribal Park initiative, we have set out a different vision for these lands and waters that respects our culture and our aspirations and creates a space for healing. We will continue to work to see that this vision becomes a reality for our people and that future generations benefit socially, economically and environmentally from all the sacrifices that the Nation has and continues to make.”

Nits’ilʔin (Chief) Jimmy Lulua, Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government:

“Today we see promise that the BC courts can deliver justice, but we have to remain vigilant, because our people have been here before. We will continue to protect our culture and our sacred places from threats like Taseko and we will never stop standing up for our rights and our future when BC and Canada fail to do so. The mining industry and government have to adapt to new title and rights that were recognized in 2014, and we are finally seeing this transition phase occur.”

Resources:

* Teẑtan Biny: www.Teẑtanbiny.ca <http://www.teztanbiny.ca>
* Video: www.tsilhqotin.ca/News-Media
<http://www.tsilhqotin.ca/News-Media>
* Dasiqox Tribal Park: https://dasiqox.org/

Media Contact:

Jacey Beck, Communications Manager, Tŝilhqot’in National
Government, (403)-998-7581, jbeck@tsilhqotin.ca
<mailto:jbeck@tsilhqotin.ca>


Taseko Mines barred from work in Tsilhqot’in traditional territory until Indigenous rights case is heard

By Ainslie Cruickshank

Star Vancouver

6 September 2019

VANCOUVER—An Indigenous nation in B.C. has once again delayed a Vancouver-based mining company from undertaking extensive mine exploration in its sensitive traditional lands.

In a decision issued Friday morning, the Supreme Court of British Columbia granted an injunction that bars Taseko Mines Limited from doing any work until the court rules in a broader case: whether the drilling program infringes on the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s Indigenous rights.

“Overall, the Tsilhqot’in stand to suffer greater irreparable harm if the injunction is not granted than Taseko will if it is,” Justice Sharon Matthews wrote in her decision.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation and Taseko Mines made competing injunction requests to the court earlier this summer in the latest chapter of their now  decades-old battle.

Taseko had asked the court to restrict members of the Tsilhqot’in from blocking their access to a site where they plan to undertake further exploratory drilling.

Taseko’s bid for a mine on Tsilhqot’in traditional territory has been rejected twice by the federal government. The company does, however, have a provincial permit — issued the day before the BC Liberals left office in July 2017 — that allows them to undertake exploratory drilling.

The company plans to gather geological and hydrological data through the drilling program for more detailed design work on its mine proposal, Mark Oulton told the court in late July. Oulton is a lawyer with the firm Hunter Litigation Chambers, which is representing Taseko.

The company’s latest iteration of the project, called New Prosperity, was rejected in 2014 by the federal Conservative government over concerns it would be too damaging to the environment. A previous proposal had been rejected in 2010.

The company’s exploratory drilling would be “an extensive, invasive program,” according to Tim Dickson, a lawyer with JFK Law representing the Tsilhqot’in.

Taseko has plans for more than 360 trenches, a series of test pits, 122 drill sites and 48 kilometres of cleared trails in a place Dickson described as one of the few areas of relatively undisturbed wilderness the Tsilhqot’in have left.

“The cultural importance of this area to the Tsilhqot’in is profound,” Dickson told the court in late July.

The Tsilhqot’in had previously and unsuccessfully challenged the drilling permit in court based on the adequacy of the consultation and accommodation. The current case claims it infringes on the nation’s Indigenous rights.

When the company moved to start work this summer, Tsilhqot’in members established a roadblock on July 2 to bar the company’s workers from accessing the site, southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.

Taseko filed a civil suit and applied for an interim injunction to prevent further roadblocks in the future. Oulton, the company’s lawyer, argued before the court that the blockade was “clearly unlawful” and caused significant financial harm to the company.

Days later, Tsilhqot’in member Roger William filed his own application for an injunction that would bar Taseko from working on the site until the court ruled on a civil suit William launched on behalf of his nation in 2017.

Chief Joe Alphonse, the tribal chairman of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, told Star Vancouver earlier this summer that, if it were to proceed, a mine near Teztan Biny or Fish Lake would threaten his people’s way of life.

“It’s a very spiritual area,” Alphonse said. “As a child growing up, our dad used to take myself and my cousin Paul hunting there. Then later in life … that was an area that a lot of our people would go to do ceremony.”

With files from Jesse Winter

 

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