(Coast Salish Territory/Vancouver, B.C. – August 10, 2016) Yesterday marked the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, yet on this day Vancouver stood witness to violent acts against Indigenous women in their efforts to raise awareness to the environmental devastation caused by Imperial Mines’ Mount Polley tailings dam two years ago. August 4, 2016, marked the second anniversary of the failure of the tailings dam at Mount Polley which is now considered to be the worst mining disaster of its kind in Canadian history. The dam burst flooded Hazeltine Creek with 2.5 billion gallons of contaminated water and 4.5 million cubic meters of metals-laden silt destroying the creek, contaminating Quesnel Lake and endangering the very livelihoods of the many First Nations and non-First Nations communities throughout Secwepemc Territory.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, President of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, exclaims “Two short years ago, the mad rush for higher dividends created the conditions ripe for the apparent gross negligence at Imperial Metals’ Mount Polley Mine, combined with the lackadaisical enforcement of the BC Government lead to one of the most infamous instances of flagrant regulatory misconduct and immense devastation to the land, water and air ever seen in this province. In this regard, it is absolutely outrageous that charges have not been laid against Imperial Metals. The collapse of the Mount Polley tailings dam will be long remembered as the most destructive assault of Indigenous Title, Rights and Treaty Rights for all First Nations living in the Fraser River Basin.”
In May 2016, BC Auditor General Carol Bellringer released a scathing report finding that the “monitoring and inspections for mines were inadequate to ensure mine operators complied with requirements.” Further the UBCIC has yet to see a genuine commitment from the Province of BC to adopt all of the Independent Expert Engineers Panel Report’s seven recommendations ensuring that such a disaster will not happen again. Consequently, several First Nations and Tourism operators have filed lawsuits against Imperial Metals.
UBCIC Vice-President Chief Robert Chamberlin, an advocate for the protection of wild salmon insists “Too little has been done to prevent another Mount Polley disaster. Where are the stronger regulations and industry scrutiny that are desperately required? These forms of environmental catastrophes represent a clear threat to wild salmon and an unacceptable infringement of Indigenous Rights.”
On August 4, in an attempt to raise awareness of these issues the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society and the Secwepemculecw Grassroots Movement peacefully constructed a blockade to the entrance of the Imperial Metals Mine, and were met with a disgusting show of violence from an Imperial Metals’ employee. Further, on August 09, the Secwepemc Women’s Warrior Society peacefully occupied the Imperial Metals Vancouver office in an effort to raise awareness of these issues and were met with an equally disgusting and shameful demonstration of racial prejudice and violence.
Kukpi7 Judy Wilson, UBCIC Secretary-Treasurer, states “The UBCIC condemns the needless violence and racial aggression of Imperial Mine employees directed at the women, children and elders in peaceful protest at both of these actions, violence that sent Sacheen Seitcham to Caribou Memorial Hospital, as a consequence of being struck by a mining employee driven vehicle, and calls for increased and responsible action by the RCMP in supporting the victims of these traumatizing events.”
UBCIC supports the assertion of Indigenous rights and title to our stolen lands and advocates strongly for increased scrutiny and regulation of all current and future mining projects with full consultation and accommodation of Indigenous rights.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, Union of BC Indian Chiefs
Phone: (604) 684-0231