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NEWS: Legal action, lobbying and roadblocks to defend Tzetan Biny

Maude Barlow and Percy Guichon meet in February in Ottawa.

Maude Barlow and Percy Guichon meet in February in Ottawa.

Tsi Del Del Chief Percy Guichon of the Tsilhqot’in National Government says, “We will fearlessly carry on the proud legacy of our ancestors. The Tsilhqot’in will continue the fight to protect our land with whatever means necessary.”

Chief Guichon was referring to the fight to stop Tzetan Biny (Fish Lake) from being drained and used as a garbage dump – under the Schedule 2 exemption to the Fisheries Act – for the waste produced by the so-called ‘Prosperity Mine’ proposed by Taseko Mines Ltd.

Guichon has stressed that “whatever means necessary” does not include violence, but instead legal action, alliances with other First Nations and environmental groups, and pressure on the federal government. He says, “I think we have to exhaust those means before any other action is taken.”

Guichon also says, “If the process doesn’t work for you or legal means don’t work for you or other forms of persuasion (don’t work), what people usually resort to is roadblocks, but it’s too early to say. I’d like to take things a step at a time and stay positive. You’ve always got to keep your options open.”

Grand Chief Stewart Philip, president of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, says, “The federal panel review process is representative of a minor skirmish. The final battle may take place on the land itself. If we cannot rely on the courts, and we cannot rely on the fundamentally flawed environmental assessment processes, then the only thing left is for us is to defend the land itself.”

While it depends on circumstances, Phillip adds that roadblocks to physically stop Taseko from building the mine is a possibility. Philip says, “If we get arrested, we get arrested. We will continue our opposition. The Tsilhqot’in people have said (the destruction of Teztan Biny) not going to happen. We can’t allow it to happen.”

A recommendation from the federal environmental assessment panel on the future of Fish Lake is expected by July 2. A decision based on that recommendation will then be made by the Harper government. The Campbell government in British Columbia has already given its approval for the project.

The Council of Canadians encourages everyone to write federal environment minister Jim Prentice to reject Taseko’s proposal to destroy the lake. For more on our campaign to scrap Schedule 2 and defend Teztan Biny, Sandy Pond, Bamoos Lake and other lakes across Canada, please go to http://canadians.org/TIA.