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A battle to stop a mine that spanned generations

Nita Grass, a Tsilhqot’in, is an activist and member of the Council of Canadians’ Board of Directors. She is passionate about water and food safety issues and is a strong advocate for Indigenous rights. When the Supreme Court ruled last week it was denying Taseko Mines Limited’s right to appeal a federal government decision rejecting the mining company’s proposal for a $1.5-billion open-pit copper and gold mine, she had the following reflections.

My Mom was a witness in the Tsilhqot’in title case, which started in 1998 in objection to B,C. issuing a third party logging authorization within the Nation’s traditional territory. She left the Earth seven years before the final decision in the Title case.

This case was built on the Delgamuukw\Gisday’wa Supreme Court ruling in 1997. I am forever grateful that they had the perseverance to pave the way for us.

During the second Government of Canada Environmental hearing regarding the New Prosperity mine proposal my daughter, my grandson and I represented the family unit opposed to the mine. The case has been a multigenerational battle, although the last three generations played a minor role. My daughter took part in the first assessment by submitting a video.

As a family we had our own internal battles about the mine. When I presented to the Environmental Assessment Committee, I referred to my uncle as “the Judas” of our family. In 2010, my uncle was quoted in the Williams Lake Tribune saying, “[The mine] will be over my dead body.”

Yet following this incident, my uncle became a strong supporter of Taseko. I could never figure out why. But we’re still family regardless.

My dad used to tell a story about a man who froze to death after burning all his money to try to start a fire. He lived minutes away from us for many years. My dad used to always end the story by saying, “He had a lot of money but it didn’t save his life.”

We treasure the land that provides for us. I hope that my grandchildren will continue to see the beauty of the land and reap its benefits. We don’t own the land, we preserve it for our future generations.