While the Prime Minister touches down in Williams Lake Monday, members of the Tsilqot’in National Government will be in Supreme Court in Victoria challenging a provincial drilling permit issued to Taseko Mines Limited.
The permit approves an extensive drilling program by Taseko Mines to advance its rejected New Prosperity Mine project. The permit authorizes Taseko to clear 76 kilometres of new or modified trails, 122 exploratory drill holes, 367 excavated test pits and 20 kilometres of seismic lines near Fish Lake, known to the Tsilhqot’in as Teztan Biny, an area of cultural and spiritual significance for the Tsilhqot’in. The Government of Canada rejected Taseko’s New Prosperity mine proposal in 2014, and the mine cannot legally be built as matters stand.
A permit was issued to Taseko Mines on July 14, just four days before new BC Premier John Horgan and his Cabinet were sworn in. This happened while wildfires ravaged the Tsilhqot’in region and Tsilhqot’in communities worked to protect their homes and their future, while attempting to relocate elders, children and others to safety. Taseko Mines is a major donor to the BC Liberal party. According to the Elections B.C. website, Taseko Mines Ltd. donated $123,450 to the BC Liberal Party between 2008 and 2014.
“Our people are understandably angry, and cannot believe that B.C. would approve more destruction in an area of such spiritual and cultural importance for us, and in Xeni Gwet’in’s trapline, an area with one of Canada’s only Court Decarations of Aboriginal Rights,” said Roger William, Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government and Vice-Chair of the TNG. “We are confident that the BC Supreme Court will hear our concerns and grant an injunction against any drilling activity by Taseko.
“The BC NDP have inherited this mess from the previous government, and we hope they will act to make things right.”
Williams Lake Mayor Walt Cobb, meanwhile, told the Tribune last week he had filed a document in favour of the New Prosperity Mine project.
“It included all the stats around job creation and verifying the employment it would create,” Cobb said, noting he filed it on behalf of city council.
Within two days of notice of the approval of the drilling permits, the Tsilhqot’in filed the following in BC Supreme Court:
· a Petition seeking to quash the permit for breach of the duty to consult and accommodate;
· a Notice of Civil Claim seeking to quash the permits as unjustified infringements of proven and established Tsilhqot’in hunting, trapping and fishing rights in the area; and,
· an injunction in each proceeding that would prohibit Taseko from conducting the drilling program pending the hearing and determination of these cases.
The injunction applications are being argued beginning today in BC Supreme Court in Victoria.
On Friday, July 28, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency also wrote to Taseko Mines Ltd. advising that the drilling program is illegal under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
“In applying for this permit, Taseko Mines have acted like bullies who have no respect for Indigenous rights and title, or the rule of law,” Russell Myers Ross, Chief of the Yunesit’in and director of the TNG.
“The New Prosperity project has been rejected twice federally and cannot be built. It is time to move on, and as Tsilhqot’in, we are moving forward with the planning of the Dasiqox Tribal Park based on our own vision and plan for this land its many resources.”
Public opposition to the proposed New Prosperity Mine has been significant over the past several years and is growing every day. A petition to the Premier of BC to Save Fish Lake currently has over 7,300 signatures. Members of the public can sign the petition at https://you.leadnow.ca/petitions/save-fish-lake-1. In addition, a Feather from Fish Lake social media campaign launched today, and the public is invited to upload videos to support Tsilhqot’in efforts. Details can be found here on TNG’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TsilhqotinNationalGovernment/.