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Chief reports to UN committee

The independent MLA for Cariboo North Bob Simpson says he is not surprised that Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste is in Geneva, Switzerland this week to report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) 80th Session.

The TNG submitted a formal report to the CERD to highlight ongoing violations of Indigenous rights that the Tsilhqot’in experience in Canada. Baptiste is in Geneva to present the report to the committee.

Tl’etinqox Chief Joe Alphonse, chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, said the Tsilhqot’in are prepared to go to the international level to protect their nation’s rights and title.

“In the case of the rebid Prosperity Mine proposal, we feel that we’ve nearly exhausted every possible avenue to resolve this at the local level, though we will continue to take our fight to the new federal panel review.”

In addition, Baptiste warned the Tsilhqot’in will continue to call on both the B.C. and federal governments to uphold their fiduciary duties to protect the TNG rights and title, which Baptiste says means protecting Teztan Biny and Nabas from this dangerous proposal.

“We are also calling on the reform of B.C.’s outdated mining laws to be compliant with the standards found in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and which result in bad projects being forced upon us without our consent,” Baptiste said.

Simpson told the Tribune the critical factor is that Canada clearly doesn’t have its act together in respect to First Nations’ rights and title.

“It’s not just the Tsilhqot’in that are going to the United Nations. We’ve had a number of First Nations across Canada just so frustrated with the national and provincial governments, that they’ve decided to take their claims to an international body,” Simpson said.

He also said the presentation in Geneva will be a “black mark” on Canada because it will allow the rest of the world to see that Canada does not have its house in order with respect to indigenous people’s rights.

Referring specifically to the proposed New Prosperity Mine Project, Simpson suggested it shows that the TNG is opposed to the particular project and the particular company, Taseko Mines Ltd.

“I have been asking the government for two years now to find a mechanism to get Taseko to stand down for a bit until such times as we can figure out a way to engage in a dialogue with the Tsilhqot’in about their rights and title,” Simpson said.

It could be an agreement or reconciliation agreement structure for proponents of projects to be able to work with government and the TNG to see if those projects are going to succeed.

“Taseko owns a part of the ill will that exists, but I still blame the provincial and federal governments for trying to steamroll over rights and title issues. Instead of blowing past that with another panel, they need to do the hard work of sitting down with the Tsilhqot’in to figure out how we are able to look at natural resource extraction through that rights and title lens,” Simpson suggested.

Both Taseko Mines vice president of corporate affairs Brian Battison and Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett declined to comment.

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