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NEWS: Taseko objects to spirituality, aboriginal prayer ceremonies, and children’s plays in defence of Fish Lake

Postmedia News reports, “A Vancouver company pushing the Harper government to reconsider a controversial gold-copper mining project in the B.C. Interior has privately urged Ottawa to ignore aboriginal requests to consider native ‘spirituality’ as a factor in their determination, according to a letter the company sent to Environment Minister Peter Kent.”

“A new federal environmental review panel ‘does not have any right to attribute significance to the spirituality of a place per se’, wrote Taseko Mines Ltd. president Russell Hallbauer in a letter obtained under the Access to Information Act and provided to the Vancouver Sun by B.C. independent provincial representative Bob Simpson.”

“Taseko, which failed in its 2010 bid to get federal approval after a ‘scathing’ federal review, also asked Ottawa to not permit aboriginal prayer ceremonies at pending hearings on the revised proposal.”

“And children’s plays should also be banned, Hallbauer told Kent in his November letter. The panel allowed ‘a group of kindergarten children to present a play, in which the children wore fish cut-outs on their heads, moved around the floor, and then all fell over simultaneously, symbolizing the death of the fish,’ Hallbauer wrote.”

“Allowing opening prayers wasn’t ‘appropriate’ and a ‘sensational’ anti-project film and the children’s play also shouldn’t have been part of a process that is supposed to be ‘objective and fact-based’.”

“The company also complained that one of the three panel members, metallurgist and former environmental mining supervisor Nalaine Morin, was a member of a First Nations organization in the area that was opposed to the project.”

“Brian Battison, Taseko’s vice-president of corporate affairs, also stressed that spirituality isn’t part of federal legislation and shouldn’t be considered. He said the company is objecting to children’s plays, films and prayers because such events bring too much emotion into the hearings.”

Tsilhqot’in response
“‘We are tied to the land and that’s a spiritual area,’ said Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse of the proposed open-pit mine about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C. ‘To not even have that as part of the review, you may as well not have a review at all. Let’s go turn the Vatican into a casino hall. This is exactly what we’re talking about when a company is allowed to make those kinds of suggestions. It’s wrong.'”

“Another local First Nations leader, Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste, likened Taseko’s proposal to the former government-sanctioned residential schools that ‘outlawed our spirituality, our drumming and our language’.”

The Council of Canadians condemns the comments made by Taseko executives and continues to stand in solidarity with the Tsilhqot’in peoples.

Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste has been invited to speak at our ‘Shout Out Against Mining Injustice’ this June 1-2 in Vancouver.

For more on the campaign to defend Teztan Biny/ Fish Lake, please go to http://canadians.org/water/issues/TIAs/teztan-biny.html.