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LETTER: Chief Alphonse highlights wider support for Tsilhqot’in Nation

(l-r) Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Maude Barlow, Chief Joe Alphonse, Harjap Grewal at the June 1 protest against Taseko.

(l-r) Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Maude Barlow, Chief Joe Alphonse, Harjap Grewal at the June 1 protest against Taseko.

Tsilhqot’in National Government chairman Tl’etinqox-t’in Chief Joe Alphonse writes in the Globe and Mail today, “The proposed mine near Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) is not a case of first nations and environmentalists pitted against non-native residents (as argued by Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson in his recent column). A significant proportion of the non-native population of Williams Lake and the Cariboo region stand firmly behind the Tsilhqot’in Nation in our opposition to this project.”

Chief Alphonse adds, “Many of these residents have the same concerns that the independent expert panel found: immitigable significant impacts to fish, fish habitat, grizzlies and a devastation to Tsilhqot’in culture, regardless of which ‘variation’ of this huge mine is proposed. The fight against the mine proposal is for all British Columbians and all Canadians who want a review process that is transparent and accountable to the public. In the face of the previous scathing findings, this so-called ‘new’ proposal cannot be approved.”

At a June 1 rally outside the Taseko annual shareholders meeting in Vancouver, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “On behalf of the 75,000 supporters of the Council of Canadians, I want to say we stand in total and absolute solidarity with the Tsilhqot’in people, with Chief Baptiste, in your struggle against Taseko Mines. …(Round two of the environmental assessment) will not be without opposition from your friends and colleagues and comrades across the country, we simply stand with you very, very strongly in the past and in the future.”

And Council of Canadians water campaigner Meera Karunananthan has commented, “John Ibbitson’s article on the proposal by Vancouver-based Taseko Mines Limited to build a massive open-pit copper gold mine in the heart of Tsilhqot’in territory not only promotes the false dichotomy of environment versus jobs, it dangerously constructs the issue as one of Indigenous versus non-Indigenous interests – a rhetoric that will only fuel any racist sentiment underlying this debate. The job-versus-environment fallacy guiding British Colombia’s mining expansion plan would permanently destroy land, water and forests for a few decades worth of jobs, leaving future generations in the same plight as current generations suffering the impacts of the loss of forestry. Putting jobs above environment only deepens this vicious cycle. Indigenous communities, who are not likely to benefit much from these highly specialized jobs will see deepening poverty, loss of food sovereignty and the violation of their rights. Nowhere does the article mention the right to Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) of the Tsilhqot’in people who have have very clearly rejected the Taseko proposal on their ancestral lands. The federal and provincial governments have no authority to grant permission to mining projects without the consent of the community. If Ibbitson plans to write more extensively on mining issues, he should familiarize himself with this important concept of FPIC. In a context where the federal government wants to gut environmental legislation in favour of reckless expansion of the extractive industry, we should all be celebrating governments like the Tsilhqot’in who are fighting for a sustainable and just economic future.”

The recent ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ public forum featured as a keynote speaker Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Chief, Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, Tsilhqot’in National Government. The video of her presentation should be posted to our website soon. For more on ‘Shout Out’, please go to http://canadians.org/shoutout.