Tsilhqot’in win in Federal Court!

Have you heard? The Federal Court just dismissed Taseko’s last-ditch attempt to overturn the federal rejection of their doomed “New Prosperity” mine at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake)!

We are grateful to everyone who donated, organized and attended rallies in support of this case.

RAVEN has a long history with the Tsilhqot’in.  Since our inception in 2009 we have raised funds so that the Xeni Gwet’in and Yunesit’in Nations could defend their sacred lake and proven rights area by participating fully in not one, but two federal environmental review processes, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA). We took our lead from the tenacity of the Tsilhqot’in  leadership, never wavering against Taseko Mine’s multiple attempts to destroy pristine Teztan Biny and the surrounding territory with a massive open-pit gold and copper mine.  And we all celebrated not one, but two federal rejections of the mining project – only to be faced with more court actions as Taseko Mines tried for another way to force its plan forward.

Through all these years, supporters stood steadfast in support of the Tsilhqot’in  stand in defence of their title, rights and unceded lands. Many donors to the Tsilhqot’in case have been with us since the beginning, in the days before reconciliation became a buzzword and before the landmark Supreme Court judgment that changed the landscape of Aboriginal rights forever.

To all of you who helped make today’s victory a reality —  our deepest thanks!

Today’s decision dismissed Taseko’s application for judicial review and awarded costs to the respondents – the Tsilhqot’in and the federal government. Specifically, Judge Michael Phelan found that there was no breach of procedural fairness to Taseko Mines; in fact, the minister went “above and beyond procedural fairness requirements”.

In alleging procedural unfairness, Taseko complained that the Tsilhqot’in National Government had greater access to decision-makers than the company did. It claimed that the federal government ought to have shared with the company any interactions it had  with the Tsilhqot’in. The decision details at length Taseko’s own efforts at persuading the federal government to approve the mine – including attempts to enlist the then Premier Clark and Minister Bennett to meet with the feds on Taseko’s behalf. The judge then tersely dismisses the whole argument:

“Taseko was active in engaging political contacts to advance their cause. This in itself leads to an asymmetrical process. The TNG (Tsilhqotin National Government) seems to have been more successful at this politicized course of action but that forms no basis for concluding that Taseko was denied the level of procedural fairness that the process required.”

Judge Phelan also emphasized the duty to consult owed the Tsilhqot’in:

“This litigation concerns a First Nation that has proven aboriginal rights and title to its land. The strength of those rights is an important context for the duty to consult”; and “In my view, a proponent does not have a right to take part in consultations between the Crown and a First Nation.”

The judge also dismissed Taseko’s claim that the rejection of its mine breached the Bill of Rights, and declined to make a finding on Taseko’s constitutional challenge to the new Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA), since the project review had been conducted under the old CEAA and Taseko’s interpretation of applicable legal doctrines departs from previous jurisprudence.

When we called the Tsilhqot’in National Government to congratulate them, they told us they are celebrating and looking forward to moving on. We all hope that this decision will be the final nail in the coffin of the Taseko project!


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