Tsilhqot'in holding protest against mine

One of the region's First Nations will pound out a message of protest in downtown Vancouver today.

The Tsilhqot'in Nation and its allies will be on the steps of the B.C. Court of Appeal conducting a water and drum ceremony as a sign of their ongoing opposition to a proposed mine on their traditional territory.

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More than just making a symbolic gesture, though, the Tsilhqot'in will also take legal action while at the courthouse. The drumming will commence at 8:30 a.m., but when the front doors are unlocked for morning business, said Tsilhqot'in National Government spokesperson Myanna Desaulniers, the group would then be "entering the B.C. Court of Appeal seeking an injunction to stop Taseko Mines Ltd. from attempting to to do pre-construction work for a mine repeatedly rejected by the federal government and cannot lawfully be built."

Taseko has been advocating for the ability to build the New Prosperity Mine west of 100 Mile House/Williams Lake for decades. The construction plan included using Te tan Biny (Fish Lake) for the mine's tailings. That drew the initial ire of the resident First Nation, and that opposition grew to include other points of contention as well.

"Te tan Biny is one of B.C.'s most productive wild trout lakes, and the surrounding area is an active Tsilhqot'in cultural school and sacred site, adjacent to the Aboriginal title lands and inside one of Canada's only court-declared areas of proven Aboriginal hunting and trapping rights," said Desaulniers.

"Despite the court declaration of Aboriginal rights to the Te tan Biny area, Taseko Mines Ltd. has tried for almost 30 years to advance a massive open pit mine over the concerns and objections of the Tsilhqot'in Nation.

"Twice (in 2010 and '14) they have emphatically failed to obtain federal environmental approval, in both cases from the most pro-mining federal government in recent history...

"Both times the mine proposals were rejected, in part, because of the devastating and immitigable impacts that it would mean for Tsilhqot'in rights, culture and cultural heritage."

The double rejection by the federal approval process did not ensure the death of the project, however. The provincial government in 2017 granted more drilling permits to Taseko in the same area as New Prosperity and a court challenge proved unsuccessful.

Under the current plans for that activity, said Desaulniers, "the company wants to begin extensive road building, drilling, test pits, and seismic line testing, and build a 50-man camp."

Today's proposed injunction intends to stop that work while the Tsilhqot'in National Government applies for leave from the Supreme Court of Canada to have the appeal heard at the highest court in the land.

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