Former Tsilhqot’in National Government tribal chair Ervin Charleyboy came out during the municipal election in support of the New Prosperity Mine project if it is environmentally safe. He’s now suggesting that the Tsilhqot’in Nation hold a referendum to determine how many members of the community oppose the project.
Last week Charleyboy told the Tribune he’s “gotten a lot of negative feedback” for his position on the controversial project. He indicated that he knew that would occur but isn’t backing down. His concern is for the future of the young people.
“The way our people are headed is no good,” he said. “I am supporting Prosperity because of the future of our people — that’s what I’m looking at 20 or 30 years down the road.”
Charleyboy is meeting with officials from Taseko Mines Ltd. later this week to talk about opportunities; he said he’s also been talking to some community members.
“I’ve been talking to a lot of young people and some of my people and I’m getting them on board,” he said. “They know where I’m coming from and they know I’m looking to the future.”
Charleyboy fears if the mine gets approved without agreements being in place between Taseko and the Tsilhqot’in Nation then First Nations communities will be “left out.”
“That’s what I’m looking at. I want something to benefit my people. I want something for the younger people,” he said.
As for holding a referendum, Charleyboy is interested in determining the level of communities’ support for the mine. He added that in the years when he opposed the project he wasn’t sure how much community support there was for his position.
“I don’t know if I had the support of the people back then even,” he said. “I don’t think I had the support. Some people wanted it.”
TNG tribal chair Joe Alphonse welcomes a referendum and knows what the outcome would be.
“There’s nothing wrong with having a referendum on any issue,” Alphonse said. “I know what the outcome of a referendum would be. If I was to ask the Tsilhqot’in people, ‘do you support Prosperity or not?’ you are going to get the vast majority of people who will come right out and it will be a lopsided victory (against the project).”
As for meeting with Taseko officials Alphonse said Charleyboy is an unelected individual who is entitled to his opinion.
“He’s an individual within the nation and if he feels that’s what he has to do then he’s doing that as an individual,” he said.