Mount Polley a 'disaster' that 'needs to be shut down' says Imperial No More activist

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Photo: flickr/Jeremy Board

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Last night, Secwepemc Women's Warrior Society and Ancestral Pride officially launched the Imperial No More Campaign against Imperial Metals, the mining company responsible for the 2014 Mount Polley tailings pond disaster.

The campaign's launch followed a week of activism marking the two-year anniversary of the Mount Polley spill in the Cariboo region of central B.C. It was a disaster that saw 10 million cubic metres of contaminated water and 4.5 million cubic metres of metal-laden silt spill into Hazeltine Creek, Polley Lake and Quesnel Lake, according to a Yuct Ne Senxiymetkew Camp statement.

Kanahus Freedom, a member of the Secwepemc Women's Warrior Society, explained to rabble over the phone that there are several unmet demands her group has fought for over the past two years and still seeks as the Imperial No More campaign moves forward.

"I would like to see recognition of our Indigenous rights and title, our tribal sovereignty to be respected," she said. "We saw Justin Trudeau recently be elected and we hear him talking about the United Nations Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous People and this includes self-determination. This includes us making decisions for ourselves, having our own traditional governance and making the decisions on our territory that impact us the most… we need to be able to create that narrative for the rest of the masses of Canada that we've never given up our lands here."

As part of this recent, increased action, Indigenous land protectors and protestors formed a road blockade at the Imperial Metals' Mount Polley site last Thursday to show resistance against its June reopening. The blockade allowed vehicles to leave the area, but did not allow them to enter which disrupted the site's operations for a few hours.

"As long as Imperial Metals and the government that backs them continue to devastate our lands with no accountability, we will take whatever action necessary to defend our lands," said the the Yuct Ne Senxiymetkew Camp statement. "There will be an escalation in resistance, solidarity and pressure against their corporate interests. [Thursday's] blockade is just the beginning."

Another step in this resistance included an occupation of the mining company's Vancouver office on Tuesday, which resulted in reports of violence and four arrests against protestors.

Freedom explained her concerns about the safety and quality standards of the water in the Mount Polley region, in spite of the fact the company has received authorization from the Ministry of Energy and Mines and the Ministry of Environment to reopen and states "the environment is recovering rapidly." Imperial Mines did not return rabble's request for comment.

"We would like Imperial Metals to cease all operations of the Mount Polley mine until there is any type of meaningful or significant cleanup taking place," Freedom said. "This will never happen. Mount Polley needs to be shut down. It's a disaster."

These demands and protests since the 2014 spill for improved cleanup by Imperial Mines and respect for Indigenous rights to land from the Province, have been ongoing, but have received very little response, according to Freedom. As a result, land protectors and activists are taking their action one step further with the Imperial No More campaign.

"We're, right now, in the midst of launching our Imperial No More campaign of escalating the actions against Imperial Metals," she told rabble. "They are destroying our territory and we've tried for two years to talk politely to the mining company and to the Province with them not listening to us, with them not recognizing that we are the rightful decision makers of our territory."

"We need to show this aggressive resource extraction industry that they can't just come in with millions of dollars and bully their way around Indigenous peoples. This is what we want the message to be."


To learn more about the Imperial No More Campaign or find out how to get involved, visit their website. To listen to the speakers from the Voices from the Blockade event where the Imperial No More campaign was watched, visit the streaming here.

Alyse Kotyk is a Vancouver-based writer and editor with a passion for social justice and storytelling. She studied English Literature and Global Development at Queen's University and is excited by media that digs deep, asks questions and shares narratives. Alyse was the Editor of Servants Quarters and has written for the Queen's News Centre, Quietly Media and the Vancouver Observer. She was rabble's 2015-16 news intern.

Photo: flickr/Jeremy Board Imperial No More action April 2015.

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