When it comes to life — all life — it is water and land that sustain all, no matter who you are.
This is central to the Tsilhqot’in people’s position that there can be no give and take when it comes to protecting Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and the surrounding ecosystem (Yanah Biny [Little Fish Lake] and Nabas) from an utterly destructive revised mine proposal — a bid that is in fact based on Option 2 in the original Prosperity Mine bid, which the former 2010 CEAA review panel, Taseko Mines Limited and Environment Canada all agreed had greater environmental risk than the plan that was ultimately rejected.
While this proposal might be all about money for Taseko Mines Limited, for us it is about life and future generations. No amount of money could replace what would be lost.
Of course, the issue of rights is also crucial to us.
The same CEAA panel in 2010 reported that our current and future rights would be irreparably harmed, and noted that the incredible cultural importance of this area would be lost for the Tsilhqot’in whether or not Teztan Biny is somehow kept on life support in the middle of a massive open-pit mining operation.
In 2010 the federal government did the only thing it could honourably do under its responsibility to the environment and its constitutional duty to protect First Nations rights, and rejected this proposed mine. With continuing immitigable impacts to the environment, fish and grizzly habitat and aboriginal use now and in the future, it must do so again.
This project is not the only option for Williams Lake or the Tsilhqot’in. As Williams Lake’s mayor said during the recent municipal election, there are many other projects and options for the city and region, and indeed the Tsilhqot’in Nation continues to work towards other economic opportunities.
It might be easy for some to say that the Tsilhqot’in should step aside, but one wonders if they would do so if this project were to be built in Williams Lake and threatened their water and land, instead of out of the town’s sight, 125 kilometres away.
Chief Marilyn Baptiste
Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government