Photo: Mass ceremony in December 2013. Photo by Harjap Grewal.

The Council of Canadians congratulates the Tsilhqot’in Nation for their successful protection of Fish Lake against a twice-proposed open-pit gold and copper mine.

Yesterday, the federal government issued a media release stating, “The Minister of the Environment has concluded that the New Prosperity Mine project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated. The Governor in Council has determined that those effects are not justified in the circumstances; therefore, the project may not proceed.”

Williams Lake chapter activist Keith Monroe says, “We are relieved by the government decision not to approve this project. After participating in two federal environmental assessments and reviewing the conclusions of both panels, it is clear to us that this is the right decision. We feel that most Canadians would expect their government to respect the results of the independent scientific review process and to honour their constitutional obligations to the First Nations people that would be impacted by this project.”

The Council of Canadians extended solidarity to the Tsilhqot’in people and helped to stop the New Prosperity mine by:

–  Protesting against Taseko outside its annual general meeting in Vancouver in June 2012. At the rally, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow stated, “Round two of the environmental assessment will not be without opposition from your friends and colleagues and comrades across the country, we simply stand with you very, very strongly in the past and in the future.”

–  Drumming with 260 people to protest at Williams Lake city hall against the mine in December 2012. J.P. Laplante of the Tsilhqot’in National Government noted that they were proud to have alongside them many people, including Chief Garry John (Board member of the Council of Canadians) and the local Williams Lake chapter.

–  Producing a report about the additional costs of the mine in February 2013. noted, “A new report commissioned by a series of groups including the Council of Canadians indicates the mine would cost taxpayers at least $42 million in road up-grades in and out of the mine site.”

–  Mobilizing our supporters to express their opposition to the mine to the federal review panel in March 2013. Pacific regional organizer Harjap Grewal wrote, “Please tell the panel that you do not support the New Prosperity mine project that continues to threaten the lands and watersheds surrounding Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and that you support the communities of Tsilhqot’in Nation, who have rejected the project. Finally, inform the panel that you demand the government and industry must seek Free, Prior and Informed Consent for any project proposed on the unceded territories of the Tsilhqot’in communities.”

–  Presenting to the federal review panel in August 2013. At that time, members of the Williams Lake chapter called on the second federal review panel to reject the New Prosperity mine proposal. Grewal commented, “The hearings exposed overwhelming concern about this proposal. We can only hope that those offering political support for this project from the provincial and federal governments are listening.”

–  Supporting a mass ceremony with traditional and modern song and dance outside the Vancouver Art Gallery in December 2013. The action was an assertion by the Tsilhqot’in and the public against the New Prosperity mine. At the time, Grewal stated, “Deliberations over the mine proposal have become a national issue as a test of the federal government’s willingness to accept the advice of its own scientists as well as respecting the rights of indigenous communities opposed to the mine.”

To read about our longer-term contribution — beginning in October 2008 — to the defeat of the original Prosperity mine, please see Campaign highlights in the Fish Lake win.

We should also note that in November 2013 the Council of Canadians formally intervened at the Supreme Court of Canada in support of the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s case for a ‘declaration of title’ to its territory in British Columbia. In his presentation to the Supreme Court, our lawyer challenged a Court of Appeal ruling that Aboriginal title could only be defined/ recognized for small fragmented areas of land stating it was not appropriate to argue that a broad recognition of title would burden existing non-indigenous interests. The Supreme Court is expected to rule on the matter sometime between April and June of this year.

The Council of Canadians applauds the Tsilhqot’in Nation for their leadership, courage and tenacity in the protection of Fish Lake and their territory.

Photo: Mass ceremony in December 2013. Photo by Harjap Grewal.

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Brent Patterson

Brent Patterson is a political activist, writer and the executive director of Peace Brigades International-Canada. He lives in Ottawa on the traditional, unceded and unsurrendered territories of the Algonquin...