The Tsilhqot’in Nation has invited a United Nations representative to visit Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) as the nation continues to protect the area and stop Taseko Mines from doing exploratory drilling in the area. Loretta Williams photo

Tsilhqot’in Nation appeals to U.N. to support its fight against Taseko Mines drilling program

U.N.’s special rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples has been invited to visit Teztan Biny (Fish Lake)

The Tsilhqot’in Nation is taking its fight against Taseko Mines Ltd. to the United Nations.

A United Nations representative has been invited by the nation to visit Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), 185 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake where Taseko Mines has a permit to do exploratory drilling in the vicinity for its proposed New Prosperity Mine project.

In a submission to the U.N., the Tsilhqot’in state they face an imminent, “eyes wide open” violation of their most fundamental human rights under international laws, including the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

“Despite repeated entreaties, the Government of British Columbia has not acted to resolve or reduce conflict over the drilling program. Notwithstanding its public commitments to Indigenous peoples, and to implementation of the U.N. Declaration, the Government of British Columbia has not taken steps to prevent the serious cultural and spiritual impacts of the drilling program,” the submission notes.

TNG tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse said the Tsilhqot’in are the only Indigenous Nation in Canada that has had its rights and title recognized.

Read more: Tsilhqot’in win Aboriginal title case

“Therefore we believe the B.C. and Canadian government must move forward with the Tsilhqot’in in a co-management governing process,” Alphonse said.

“B.C. has stated that they are committed to implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and they seem to have forgotten this commitment. In a case like Taseko, it is apparent that our Aboriginal rights and jurisdiction aren’t being taken seriously and therefore, we are taking this matter to the United Nations in effort to get our voices heard and wake up both B.C. and Canada.”

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Jimmy Lulua said despite all of the time, efforts and court appearances, the Tsilhqto’in people are still struggling to defend protected areas of cultural and spiritual significance.

“We are engaging the United Nations in hopes that they will step in and recognize this violation of our peoples’ human rights and put the necessary pressure on BC and Canada to right this wrong.”

Taseko Mines Ltd. filed an injunction in B.C. Supreme Court to be permitted to carry out the drilling after contractors were denied by members of the Tsilhqot’in Nation who set up a peaceful protest at the junction of Highway 20 and the Farwell Canyon Road and blocked the road on Tuesday, July 2.

Read more: Taseko Mines Ltd. pursues court injunction against B.C. First Nation for exploratory drilling

When Taseko representatives appeared in B.C. Supreme Court on Tuesday, July 16, there was not enough time to hear their application for an injunction, said Brian Battison, vice-president of corporate affairs for Taseko.

“The judge heard submissions about when the Taseko motion should be heard, and ordered that Taseko’s motion for an injunction be adjourned until Monday, July 29.”

On Thursday, July 4, the Tshilqot’in National Government’s Counsel wrote a letter to Taseko and the B.C. Government, providing notice they planned to renew a notice of civil claim, originally filed in 2017, for a full trial of the issues, to establish the drilling program is an “unjustified infringement of proven Tsilhqot’in Aboriginal rights.”

The TNG also have a B.C. Supreme Court date of July 29 and 30, 2019 for an injunction to stop the drilling program.

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