AFN National Chief Joins Tsilhqot’in in Defence of Fish Lake – TNG Press Release

For Immediate Release 

Cabinet Must Reject Mine Proposal

Williams Lake, BC. Thursday, October 21: Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo joined the chiefs of the six Tsilhqot’in First Nations in Williams Lake this week to reaffirm country-wide support for their battle to save Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and to get an update on developments. 

“We are grateful to National Chief Atleo and chiefs across BC and Canada who are united in supporting us in our determined efforts to ensure that the federal government lives up to its constitutional duty to protect our rights and its duties to protect the environment and rejects this mine,” said TNG Tribal Chair Chief Joe Alphonse. 

National Chief Atleo said: “This project is a bad proposal and a textbook example of how not to pursue mining. First Nations are not opposed to development that is environmentally responsible and respectful of their rights. The current proposal is unacceptable and must be rejected. First Nations, governments and industry must work together on the basis of respect to develop mining proposals that work for everyone,” said National Chief Atleo.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Tsilhqot’in National Government said: “The support of Chief Atleo and the AFN is vital to us and we appreciate the opportunity to have this meeting.

“There have been many new revelations and developments since the July 2 Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency review panel report found there would be significant and irreparable hard to both our environment and our rights, culture and future,” said Chief Baptiste. “All of them have reinforced our position that the government is constitutionally, legally and morally bound to reject this specific proposal.”

Examples of new information include:

• Access to information documents which show the federal Department of Fisheries warned repeatedly from 1995 onwards that the federal government could not approved a mine that killed Fish Lake, and urged the company and province not to waste time on this idea. DFO continued to oppose the mine during the CEAA hearings, stating that even when using the “no net loss” rules for fisheries, the proposal fails to meet the required standards for approval.

• The provincial government recently confirmed that when the proposed mine, with its 35 sq. km footprint, was still in the design phase, it rejected a small resort lodge expansion in the same area on the grounds that it would be too damaging to the environment and First Nations rights. There was no explanation for abandoning these principles, other than to say more money was involved with the proposed mine.

• The proponent company and people associated with it directed almost $500,000 in donations to BC Liberal party coffers as the BC Liberal government prepared to move towards an EA process.

• The province appears to have accepted the proponent company’s claims of jobs and economic benefits without seeking independent verification. It has refused to consider studies by other experts which indicate the mine will generate only a fraction of the promised revenues and jobs, and that when subsidized hydro and other costs are factored in, the mine could actually cost British Columbians at least $20 million a year over the life of the mine. 

• The company has repeatedly portrayed First Nations as an obstacle against jobs and some of those championing the mine – including BC’s Junior Mines Minister Randy Hawes and Williams Lake Chamber of Commerce president and former Liberal MLA Walter Cobb – have resorted to making offensive comments about First Nations culture and have warned that there will be angry repercussions against our people if the mine does not go ahead

• Despite claims of massive support for this mine, the only effort to demonstrate this was the recent release of a three-month old poll, which surveyed a total of 200 people in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House, where the mining company has been most active in promising jobs and economic activity. It ignored the population of the entire region that would be affected. It was conducted by a small boutique company that boasts on its website: “We know what questions to ask, but more importantly, we know how to analyze the results to help our clients win.” Yet despite all these efforts to guarantee resounding support for the mine, the poll still found that one third of respondents were opposed to the mine and 55% were concerned about the negative environmental impacts.

• Mines, Energy and Petroleum Resources Minister Bill Bennett demonstrated how much attention his government had paid to assessing the environmental value of Fish Lake by declaring that this pristine body of water, which is teeming with wild rainbow trout, is one of the top ten catch-and- release fishing lakes in BC and was featured on Tourism BC brochures, was just a “pothole.”

“These and other revelations demonstrate on the one hand the justification for rejecting this specific mine proposal, and on the other hand the weakness of the provincial review process, the paucity of the arguments for the mine, and the depths to which some people have been willing to go to try to generate public support for the mine and incite anger against First Nations,” said Chief Baptiste.


Media inquiries: Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chair, TNG: 250.305.8282 (c) or 250.394.4212 (w)
Chief Marilyn Baptiste: 250.267.1401 (c) or 250.394.7023 ext. 202 (w)

Williams Lake Tribune article on the meeting – Assembly of First Nations chief visits TNG leaders

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