Canada - Tsilhqot'in set to declare site of New Prosperity mine a tribal park

Date of publication: 
11 September 2014

A B.C. First Nation is set to declare a vast chunk of the Chilcotin as a tribal park, including the site of the controversial proposed New Prosperity mine at Fish Lake.

A formal ceremony unveiling Dasiqox Tribal Park is set for Oct. 4, less than four months after a landmark Supreme Court of Canada ruling found that the Tsilhqot’in people have title to 1,750 square kilometres of land west of Williams Lake.

Taseko Mines Ltd.‘s Fish Lake property lies outside the title area recognized by the courts, but the natives – who have long opposed the mine and claim hunting, fishing, and trapping rights in the area – have now folded the mine site into the tribal park boundary.

Questions immediately arise as to the validity of the tribal park declaration and what it means for the future of the $1.1-billion New Prosperity copper-gold project.

Brian Battison, vice-president of corporate affairs for Taseko, said Wednesday he is aware of the forthcoming ceremony but could not comment until he knows more details. “I don’t really know what it means. I don’t know what a tribal park is, how it’s constituted, and what may or may not be allowed.”

The tribal park would cover about 3,120 square kilometres and protect cultural, heritage and ecological values, according to the Tsilhqot’in, while connecting to five surrounding provincial parks.

Dave Williams, president of Friends of the Nemiah Valley, which works closely with the Tsilhqot’in people on conservation projects, explained in an interview that large-scale industrial mining and clear-cut logging would not be allowed in the tribal park, but that smaller-scale resource activities such as sustainable logging with portable mills may be suitable to provide employment for natives.

“Their view is this is their sovereign territory,” Williams said. “People going into the territory and applying for licences of occupation or permits … will have to go through the First Nations government.”

He said the tribal park declaration is unilateral for now, but his long-term hope is that the province could come on board under a joint management system similar to the Stein Valley Nlaka’pamux Heritage Park, established near Lytton in 1995.

Premier Christy Clark and John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, were in the Nemiah Valley on Wednesday, signing a letter of understanding that commits to building a more positive relationship with the Tsilhqot’in nation.

Communications officer Leanne Ritchie released a ministry statement saying the province had not received details of the tribal park, but hoped that the letter of understanding would provide the basis for future talks.

An August 2014 inventory report by consultant Wayne McCrory for the Xeni Gwet’in and Yunesit’in First Nations, with about 850 band members, noted that the area features a unique “rain shadow” forest ecosystem and some of the best habitat for large carnivores in North America.

Due to logging and mining threats, McCrory concluded: “The only option to protect this rich cultural/heritage landscape is through a designation of full protection status, such as a combined Tribal Park/provincial Class A Park or Conservancy.”

Taseko’s gold-copper mine project was approved by the provincial government, but twice rejected by federal panels and the federal government. Both federal panels cited damage to fish and fish habitat.


Tsilhqot’in, B.C. sign historic Letter of Understanding, set the stage for lasting reconciliation

Government Operations Wednesday, September 10, 2014 3:00 PM

NEMIAH VALLEY – Premier Christy Clark and the Tsilhqot’in Nation Chiefs signed a Letter of Understanding (LOU) today that provides a response to the Supreme Court of Canada’s Tsilhqot’in Nation judgement, commits to building a more positive relationship between the Province and the Tsilhqot’in Nation and sets the groundwork for long-term reconciliation efforts.

The signing took place during a historic visit by the Premier and John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation, with Tsilhqot’in leadership, Elders, youth and communities in Xeni Gwet’in on Tsilhqot’in Title lands.

The LOU is a commitment to work together to achieve a just and lasting reconciliation for the Tsilhqot’in people. This sets the stage for long term negotiations, with a high-level table to explore new and innovative approaches to Crown-First Nations reconciliation.


Premier Christy Clark –

“This agreement commits us to working together in partnership as we explore how to implement the Tsilhqot’in Nation judgement. The Supreme Court of Canada has provided us with clarity, direction, and a profound opportunity to build a more positive relationship between the Province and the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The way forward starts with a renewed and strengthened vision of First Nations as partners in the economic, political and social future of this province.”

Chief Joe Alphonse, Tribal Chairman of Tsilhqot’in National Government and Tl’etinqox Chief –

“September 10th was a day I thought would never happen. 150 years ago, our Tsilhqot’in Chiefs came to negotiate a peace accord, under a flag of truce, only to be arrested and hanged as murderers. The signing of this LOU marks an opportunity to move beyond this tragic past, and start a new era based on real respect and recognition. There is so much that can be accomplished in this province by working with First Nations instead of against us. This LOU is a positive first step, and we call on the Province to show leadership and carry through on this commitment to a new future, for the benefit of all First Nations and all British Columbians. We are hopeful that Canada will follow suit.”

Chief Roger William, Vice Chairman of Tsilhqot’in National Government and Chief of Xeni Gwet’in –

“The Tsilhqot’in are proud to host the Premier on our land. Our lands and our people are so deeply connected, and we acknowledge the Premier’s efforts to come to our territory and meet with our Elders and members. Our Elders showed such courage to testify in court, in our own language, and many are no longer with us today – we will forever remember them for winning this battle for us. We could not be prouder of them. Collectively this land is ours and collectively we have the strength to continue governing these lands, honouring our culture, and making decisions based on our cultural values – decisions that affect us and our future generations.”

John Rustad, Minister of Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation –

“This agreement lays out a structure for a government-to-government relationship that will allow us to explore how we can work together to bring life into the court decision. Our existing relationship with the Tsilhqot’in Nation will provide us with a strong foundation as we move forward and we are eager to begin exploring the historic opportunities that lay before us.”

Quick Facts:

On June 26, 2014, the Supreme Court of Canada rendered its unanimous judgment in the Tsilhqot’in case, recognizing Aboriginal title for the first time in Canadian history on territory of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation, one of six communities within the Tsilhqot’in Nation.

The Letter of Understanding sets out how the Tsilhqot’in and Province will work together to:

Redress issues of the past, including the wrongful trial and hanging of the Tsilhqot’in Chiefs in 1864-65; Begin the immediate work of the present, by establishing tables that will work together to implement the court’s decision; and, Move into the future with longer-term reconciliation initiatives that explore economic opportunities, and improve the health, education and socio-economic well-being of the Tsilhqot’in people.

Learn More:

For a complete copy of the Letter of Understanding, visit:

For more information on the Tsilhqot’in National Government, visit:

Media Contacts:

Sam Oliphant
Press Secretary
Office of the Premier
Government of British Columbia
250 952-7252

Lisa Leslie
Ministry of Aboriginal Relations and
250 213-7724

Myanna Desaulniers
Communication Coordinator
Tsilhqot’in National Government
778 836-0122