Potential harm makes Fish Lake mine a difficult choice


Shawn A-In-Chut Atleo, Vancouver Sun – http://www.vancouversun.com/business/Potential+harm+makes+Fish+Lake+mine...

Date of publication: 
15 October 2010

With a federal decision pending on the future of Fish Lake in British Columbia, the Assembly of First Nations is calling for continued dialogue with first nation leaders in the region.

We continue to stand proudly behind the Tsilhqot’in government as they defend their traditional territories and ways of life, despite suggestions from local politicians that the Taseko Mines Ltd. project near Williams Lake should be a “no-brainer” for the six communities it will directly impact.

To suggest that first nations in the region should welcome a mining project based solely on its potential for economic growth would mean abandoning a host of rights and responsibilities.

First nations have a responsibility to the land and with that hold constitutionally protected rights. As stewards of the land, as mothers, grandmothers, uncles and aunties, the Tsilhqot’in exercise their responsibility to provide for future generations in an environmentally sustainable way.

An independent panel of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency concluded the mining project would permanently destroy lands and waters at Fish Lake. The panel reported that the mine would negatively impact fish habitat, local wildlife, navigation and traditional land use, devastating the surrounding environment and permanently threaten the rich heritage of the territories of the Tsilhqot’in Nation.

Let’s be clear — first nations are not opposed to economic development and see the benefits in terms of growth and job creation in communities, but it’s got to be done in an environmentally balanced way — and in a way that’s right for everyone involved. This means discussions and dialogue with local first nations to ensure their rights, citizens and future generations are protected.

The citizens of the Tsilhqot’in nations are standing up, as leaders in their communities, and in a way that could be considered an example for similar scenarios taking place across Canada where the duty to consult with first nations has not been fulfilled.

In the absence of government discussion with the Tsilhqot’in government, the Assembly of First Nations is strongly encouraging the federal government to engage the local communities in adequate consultation before a decision is made, particularly when first nations have repeatedly expressed their willingness to be part of the discussion.

An effective dialogue could spark a strengthened relationship required to continue our work together as governments and nations.

With the decision on the Taseko Mines project at Fish Lake, Ottawa has an opportunity to demonstrate a commitment to environmental protection and a renewed relationship with first nations.

Shawn A-in-chut Atleo is national chief of the Assembly of First Nations.

UBCIC’s Protecting Knowledge Conference site: http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/Resources/conferences/PK.htm

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[URL Forwarded by Grand Chief Ed John – EdJohn [at] fns [dot] bc [dot] ca ]

Aboriginal Public Television Network great 7 minute video on Tsilhqot’in fight for land and culture