For Immediate Release:
FIRST NATIONS UNITED IN DEMANDING PROSPERITY MINE PROPOSAL BE REJECTED
Ottawa. Thursday Sept. 2. 2010: National, regional and local BC First Nations Chiefs today delivered a clear and unequivocal message to the federal government at the Ottawa National Press: The proposed Prosperity mine in BC cannot be allowed to proceed.
If the federal government – whose decision could be announced as early as Sept. 10 – abandons its duty to reject this project, First Nations across BC and Canada will unite to defend against the project proceeding.
Tsilhqot’in National Government chiefs, whose members’ traditional lands would be impacted and whose sacred waters at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) would be turned into a toxic tailing pond by the proposed mine, were today joined by the BC Assembly of First Nations’ Regional Chief Jody Wilson-Raybould, Union of BC Indian Chiefs Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and BC First Nations Summit Grand Chief Ed John at a news conference in Ottawa.
“There are no options open to the federal Government – it must respect the findings of significant and irreparable harm to the environment and First Nations rights and culture that were delivered in the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency’s review Panel Report 2010,” said Chief Marilyn Baptiste, of Xeni Gwet’in.
“The CEAA report leaves the government legally, constitutionally and morally bound to reject this proposal,” said Chief Ivor D. Myers, of the Yunesit’in Government. “Every community member expressed their opposition to the mine in the panel hearings and we as Chiefs have an inherent sacred duty to protect the lands that we survive off of and our sacred burial grounds that would be desecrated.”
Chief Percy Guichon, of Tsi Deldel (Alexis Creek First Nation) said: “The TNG, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, the BC First Nations Summit, the BC First Nations Leadership Council, the national assembly of first nations, the BC AFN and other First Nations groups, bands and concerned Canadians have all made their united opposition to this mine crystal clear since before the CEAA panel delivered its report.”
The Chiefs were in Ottawa today to deliver the message publicly after having had requests for a meeting with Environment Minister Jim Prentice ignored for nearly two months. Letters to other minister and all members of the BC federal Conservative caucus have also gone unanswered.
The post- CEAA consultation period ends today (Sept. 2). Under the terms of reference for the CEAA panel review, the government agreed to deliver a decision 70 days after the report was public on July 2, which would make Sept. 10 the decision deadline.
The TNG wrote to Minister Prentice in early June to raise a number of issues, including its desire for assurances that the government had not predetermined the mine would go ahead regardless of the CEAA panel review findings.
Taseko Mines Ltd., the proponent company, has been assuring investors that the mine will proceed and that approval will be granted rapidly. This has raised concerns that the company seems to have no question that its mine will be approved.
“We are disappointed that Minister Prentice has not responded to our request, and that other ministers and members of the BC federal caucus have also failed to respond to letters that we have sent to them,” said Chief Baptiste.
“This certainly has done nothing to address the perception that the federal Government may all along have intended to approve regardless of the findings by the CEAA review panel.”
The CEAA panel report found that the creation of the mine and the resulting killing of the pristine, beautiful and sacred Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) would irreversibly impose serious harm on the environment, fish and wildlife and on First Nations rights, lives, culture and spirituality. It found that the proposal does not meet standards required under federal fisheries and navigable waters rules. The panel also stated it did not believe any proposed mitigation measure would address this harm.
“We can only hope the federal government was not so rash as to issue any illicit advance assurances to the company or the provincial government that this mine would be given the green light, because the findings mean there is now a clear duty on Ottawa to honour both its constitutional duty to protect the rights of First Nations and its responsibility under Canada’s environmental assessment laws and reject this mine,” said Chief Baptiste.
Grand Chief Ed John of the BC First Nations Summit said: “The federal government must respect the findings of its own review panel and reject the proposed Prosperity Mine project. Any federal approval for this project would only confirm First Nations’ concerns about the legitimacy of the environmental assessment process. It would also clearly demonstrate that this government does not have any regard for First Nations title, rights, and culture, despite their recent apology for similar behaviour through the residential school system. This clearly demonstrates the need for the Government of Canada to fully and meaningfully adopt the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which sets out clear standards for upholding the survival, dignity and well-being of Indigenous peoples.”
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs said: “No one should underestimate the expectations of First Nations that the government act honourably and reject this mine, or their resolve to defend these lands and waters in the face of unjust decisions.
“Approving this mine would serve as a catalyst that would trigger a volatile and protracted confrontation and would set back the good work that is occurring between other First Nations and forward-thinking companies to develop meaningful partnerships – in the absence of resolved title and rights in BC – to look for responsible and sustainable projects,” said Grand Chief Phillip. “It would also undermine any effort to build better relationships with First Nations across Canada.”
To view a video of our lake, visit: https://www.raventrust.com/projects/fishlaketeztanbiny/video-bluegold.html
Media Inquiries: Marilyn Baptiste, Chief Xeni Gwet’in : (613) 851-2151 or (250) 267-1401