GENEVA, Swizterland, Feb. 23, 2012 /CNW/ - Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the
Xeni Gwet'in First Nations Government is in Geneva, Switzerland this
week to report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of
Racial Discrimination (CERD) 80th Session. The Tsilhqot'in Nation submitted a formal report to the CERD
to highlight ongoing violations of Indigenous rights that the
Tsilhqot'in experience in Canada and Chief Baptiste is in Geneva to
present this to the Committee.
"The Tsilhqot'in are prepared to go to the international level to
protect our Nation's rights and title," said Chief Joe Alphonse, Chair
of the Tsilhqot'in National Government. "In the case of the rebid
Prosperity Mine proposal, we feel that we've nearly exhausted every
possible avenue to resolve this at the local level, though we will
continue to take our fight to the new federal Panel review."
Chief Baptiste expressed, "Through questions asked by committee members,
issues and concerns reported by NGO's and Aboriginal representation are
being brought to international attention. Questions included asking
Canada to present their justification about how they gained title to
the land, what mechanisms exist in Canada to ensure fair and equal
court processes when communities turn to court to protect their
Aboriginal Rights and Title, and if Canada thinks that Aboriginal Title
can co-exist under the current political structure."
The Tsilhqot'in report focuses on the fight to protect Teztan Biny and
its environs from the proposed resubmitted Prosperity Mine proposal,
and the underlying legal regime which sees First Nations rights and
title ignored and bad mining projects forced upon communities against
"This is not simply a criticism of British Columbia's outdated laws
before the United Nations. Instead, we are educating the U.N. about who
we are as Tsilhqot'in, and about the values that we must protect if our
culture is to thrive" said Chief Alphonse. "These values include intact
lands and waters that will sustain our communities, wildlife and fish,
and second, economic development that respects our priorities."
It has been extremely frustrating to the Tsilhqot'in communities to
enter a new Panel review for a version of this mine already deemed
worse by the previous Panel.
Chief Baptiste expressed, "The Tsilhqot'in will continue to call on both
the BC and federal governments to uphold their fiduciary duties to
protect our rights and title, which means protecting Teztan Biny and
Nabas from this dangerous proposal. We are also calling on the reform
of BC's outdated mining laws to be compliant with the standards found
in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,
and which result in bad projects being forced upon us without our
A supporting submission on the issue of mining and FN rights in BC was
also submitted by BC's First Nations Women Advocating Responsible
Mining (FNWARM), of which Chief Baptiste is a founding member.
Tsilhqot'in Report: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/docs/ngos/Tsilhqotin_Canada80.pdf
Attached: Ten Facts that show why resubmitted Prosperity Mine proposal cannot be
Ten facts that show why resubmitted Prosperity Mine proposal cannot be
1. The CEAA review panel process was very different from the BC EAO
rubber-stamp decision. Its report found immitigable, devastating
impacts to the local fish stocks and endangered grizzly populations,
and to the existing and future rights of the Tsilhqot'in and its youth.
Then Environment Minister Jim Prentice described the report's findings
as "scathing" and "probably the most condemning I have ever read."
2. The company knows its new option is worse than its first plan. TML's
V.P. Corporate Affairs, Brian Battison, was clear in his Mar. 22, 2010,
opening presentation to the CEAA hearings, when he stated: "Developing Prosperity means draining Fish Lake. We wish it were
otherwise. We searched hard for a different way. A way to retain the
lake and have the mine. But there is no viable alternative. The lake
and the deposit sit side by side. It is not possible to have one
without the loss of the other."
3. The point was emphasised by TML's VP of engineering, Scott Jones, who
stated: "What happens to the water quality in Fish Lake, if you try and preserve
that body of water with the tailings facility right up against it, is
that over time the water quality in Fish Lake will become equivalent to
the water quality in the pore water of the tailings facility,
particularly when it's close."
4. This proposal does not address the issues that led to the rejection
of the first bid last year. Fish Lake will be affected by the toxic
waste and eventually die, and it will be surrounded by a massive open
pit mine and related infrastructure for decades. The Tsilhqot'in people
will not have access to their spiritual place, and the area will never
be returned to the current pristine state.
It is not even new. It is "Mine Development Plan 2." TML states on page
20 of its project submission: "Option 2 is the basis for the New Prosperity design …The concepts that
lead to the configuration of MDP Option 2 have been utilized to develop
the project description currently being proposed."
5. This option was looked at and rejected last year by the company,
Environment Canada and the CEAA review panel. For example, page 65 of
the review report states: "The Panel agrees with the observations made by Taseko and Environment
Canada that Mine Development Plans 1 and 2 would result in greater
long-term environmental risk than the preferred alternative."
6. The new $300 million in proposed spending is to cover the costs of
relocating mine waste a little further away. There is nothing in the
'new' plan to mitigate all the environmental impacts identified in the
previous assessment. TML states in its economic statement: "The new development design, predicated on higher long term prices for
both copper and gold, would result in a direct increase in capital
costs of $200 million to purchase additional mining equipment to
relocate the tailings dam and to move the mine waste around Fish Lake
to new locations. This redesign also adds $100 million in direct extra
operating costs over the 20-year mine life to accomplish that task." In fact, this new spending is actually $37 million less than the
company said last year it would have to spend just to go with the
option that it and the review panel agreed would be worse for the
7. The federal government is required under the Constitution to protect
First Nations, which have been found to be under serious threat in this
case, and is internationally committed to do so under the United
Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. These duties
are every bit as clear regarding this resubmitted proposal.
8. Approving this mine would show the Environmental Assessment process
is meaningless, and would demonstrate that governments are ignoring
their obligations - as the Assembly of First Nations national
chiefs-in-assembly made this crystal clear this summer in their
resolution of support for the Tsilhqot'in.
9. The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has opposed this
project since it was first raised in 1995. It soundly rejected it again
last year. It has no reason to support it now. Nor does Environment
Canada, which, as the CEAA report noted last year, also found option 2
to be worse than the original bid.
10. There are many other more worthy projects to be pursued - the vast
majority of which, if not all will require working with aboriginal
communities. Natural Resources Canada estimates there is $350
billion-$500 billion worth of such potential projects in Canada.
Governments, industry and investors do not need to go backwards by
pushing this confrontational proposal and rebuffing efforts by First
Nations to find a way to create a better mining system that would
benefit everyone in the long run.
SOURCE Tsilhqot'in National Government
For further information:
Chief Joe Alphonse (250-305-8282); As of Feb 24th: Chief Marilyn Baptiste (250-267-1401)