Russell Hallbauer’s recent letter submitted to the environment minister projects more than caution, but desperation, paranoia, and fear.
It reflects the colonizing efforts made by the company to reduce indigenous people’s participation in the process.
Of the two arguments established, the first focuses on the extent that First Nations are categorically biased and can never be objective; the second implies that the previous panel gave “priority status” to First Nations perspectives, which influenced the decision.
First, Taseko Mines already requested Ms. Nalaine Morin be recused from the former panel for her advocacy role with the Talhtan Heritage Resources Environmental Assessment Team, saying she may be “biased.” An independent law firm reviewed this and the report determined that a bias did not exist with the evidence filed. While Hallbauer’s doubt lingers, it exists also amongst First Nations, who believe that panel members who have benefited financially from mining before may be tainted as biased towards the industry they once profited from. So it’s near impossible to rely on pure objectivity.
Second, Hallbauer raises concerns that the panel may have given special treatment to the Tsilhqot’in and Secwepmec communities. Considering prayers and songs before a meeting has been a long-standing custom.
It seems disrespectful for an outsider, whether the panel members or Taseko Mines executives, to come into a host community and demand unilaterally what the formalities should be. As if Hallbauer knew anything about aboriginal rights, it appears he somehow forgot that the Crown is legally obliged to accommodate the interests of First Nations through every step of the decision-making process.
While this rarely comes to fruition with satisfaction, the accommodation of the host country’s customs should be welcomed.
Hallbauer’s letter reflects his colonizer status, and it appears he hopes to convince the minister that domination and bullying is normal. It appears again that Taseko Mines is not interested in any relationship with the people who belong to the land.