The audience in Williams Lake.
Maude Barlow and Marilyn Baptiste
The Council of Canadians Williams Lake chapter is hosting Maude Barlow at a public forum at the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex this evening.
Williams Lake is located about 350 kilometres directly north of Vancouver.
Vancouver-based Council of Canadians organizer Harjap Grewal tells us about 130 people have gathered for this evening’s public forum.
Barlow is there to talk about water protection, the ongoing struggle against a proposed Taseko mine, and to mark the 10th anniversary of the chapter.
Among the many activities and accomplishments of the chapter over the years, it was an intervenor in the precedent setting 8-0 unanimous decision by the Supreme Court of Canada acknowledging Indigenous title to more than 1,700 square kilometres of land to the Tsilhqot’in Nation in British Columbia.
Tonight’s public forum will include presentations by Marilyn Baptiste, Councillor with the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations (one of the six Tsilhqot’in communities that form the Tsilhqot’in Nation) and Jenny Howell, Coordinator of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society’s Water Wise program (which facilitates classroom education modules and field trips students in Kindergarten through Grade 8).
The Council of Canadians presented an activist of the year award to Baptiste at our annual conference in Nanaimo in 2012 for her role in organizing against the proposed Taseko open-pit gold and copper mine at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake), which is located about 180 kilometres south-west of Williams Lake.
The Council of Canadians has stood in solidarity with this struggle since 2008 and continues to support the Tsilhqot’in National Government’s efforts to stop the mine.
iPolitics has reported, “Taseko’s first application for the New Prosperity Mine – said to be the last major deposit of gold and copper in North America – included turning the pristine lake into a toxic dump site for the proposed mine’s tailings. Even without that outrageous component, the company’s proposal was turned down a second time in 2014 because the feds thought the mine would cause severe environmental damage, harm Tsilhqot’in culture and violate aboriginal rights. [BC Premier] Christy Clark and her ministers have been enthusiastic supporters of the New Prosperity Mine since they approved it in 2010. It remains to be seen if Clark’s government will [now] grant permits to Taseko to get their project into motion – and past the point of no return.”
Those permits would allow 122 drill set holes, 76 kilometres of roads, 367 test pits, 20 kilometres of seismic lines, and a 50-person work camp.
In January, the Council of Canadians co-hosted a fundraising event with the Tsilhqot’in National Government, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, the Wilderness Committee, Amnesty International Vancouver and Friends of the Nemaiah Valley that raised $12,000 for the legal fight against the mine (as Taseko is now seeking a judicial review of the Harper government’s decision to reject the mine).
Barlow spoke in Courtenay on April 6, Nanaimo on April 7, Victoria on April 8 and following Williams Lake tonight will speak in Kamloops on April 11.
Barlow’s speaking tour is happening in the lead-up to the pivotal and close May 9 provincial election in British Columbia.