OPEN LETTER RE: UBCIC Resolution 2016-49 “Support for the Tsilhqot’in Nation and Condemning the Provincial Amendment Process for the “Prosperity Mine”

Dear Premier Clark, Minister Polak and Associate Deputy Minister Jardine,

We are writing with respect to UBCIC Resolution 2016-49, “Support for the Tsilhqot’in Nation and Condemning the Provincial Amendment Process for the “Prosperity Mine,” which was presented, affirmed and endorsed by consensus at the UBCIC Annual General Assembly on September 23, 2016 (enclosed).

On November 16, 2010, the Federal Government rejected the Prosperity Mine. On February 26, 2014, the Federal Government rejected the New Prosperity Mine.

In contrast, on January 14, 2010, before the first federal panel had even started its public hearings, British Columbia approved the Prosperity Mine, on the basis of a report from the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) that dismissed the impacts of the mine on the Tsilhqot’in people as insignificant.

The Tsilhqot’in Nation and its communities endured two separate federal environmental assessment processes for the Prosperity and New Prosperity Mine proposals. In each review, an independent federal panel emphasized the profound cultural and spiritual importance of Teztan Biny and Nabas to the Tsilqhot’in people, as a gathering place, as a cultural school for youth, as a place of spiritual power and healing, as sacred burial and cremation grounds, and as critical hunting, trapping and gathering areas. The federal panel for New Prosperity Mine warned that the mine would “endanger [the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s] ability to sustain their way of life and cultural identity”.

The EAO has rejected the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s position that it is egregious and absurd to both consider further provincial approvals at this time and to subject the Tsilhqot’in people to yet another approval process. The EAO has said it has no choice but to consider Taskeo Mines Limited’s (TML) application after a letter form TML to the Premier demanding the amendment, and threatening the Province with litigation.

The federal panel for Prosperity Mine expressly noted that the EAO had reached its decision without the benefit of the substantial information it received directly from First Nations members in community hearings, and without the submissions of federal departments, which raised serious concerns with the project.

For the Province to advance an amendment process for the Prosperity mine despite the findings of the federal environmental assessment process and the profound impact such a project would have one the Tsilhqot’in Nation, is in direct contravention of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which states:

Article 26 (1): Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.

Article 27: States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to Indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the right of Indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in the process.

Article 29: Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources;

Article 32:
(1): Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.
(2): States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative insertions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.

The UBCIC Chiefs-in-Assembly fully support the efforts of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to protect their lands of profound cultural and spiritual value from the proposed New Prosperity Mine, and will stand behind the Tsilhqot’in Nation in defense of these lands regardless of any amendment process or decision by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) or British Columbia.

The UBCIC Chiefs-in-Assembly condemn the EAO’s decision to consider an amendment that would approve New Prosperity, in the face of the federal government’s firm rejection of this proposal, and under the cloud of political pressure and threats of litigation from TML against the Province.

The UBCIC advises the EAO and British Columbia that First Nations across the province are bearing witness to the New Prosperity amendment process and are alarmed and deeply concerned by the EAO’s apparent lack of integrity, and its disregard for the interests of First Nations in this province.

On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President 

Chief Robert Chamberlin
Vice-President 

Kukpi7 Judy Wilson
Secretary-Treasurer

CC: UBCIC Chiefs Council

==

UNION OF B.C. INDIAN CHIEFS
48TH ANNUAL GENERAL ASSEMBLY
SEPTEMBER 21ST TO 23RD, 2016
MUSQUEAM COMMUNITY CENTRE, XʷMƏΘKʷƏY̓ƏM (MUSQUEAM TERRITORY)

Resolution no. 2016-49

RE: Support for the Tsilhqot’in Nation and Condemning the Provincial Amendment Process for the “Prosperity” Mine

WHEREAS the Tsilhqot’in Nation, with the support of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs (UBCIC), the Assembly of First Nations and First Nations Summit, successfully defended their Aboriginal Title, Rights and the integrity of their lands and waters threatened by the Prosperity Gold-Copper Mine (the “Prosperity Mine”), and the revised “New” Prosperity Mine (the “New Prosperity” Mine), which would have devastated the Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabas areas;

WHEREAS on November 16, 2010, the Federal Government rejected the Prosperity Mine. On February 26, 2014, the Federal Government rejected the New Prosperity Mine;

WHEREAS in contrast, the Government of British Columbia rushed to approve the Prosperity Mine, and has actively advocated on behalf of the mine. On January 14, 2010, before the first federal panel had even started its public hearings, British Columbia approved the Prosperity Mine, on the basis of a report from the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) that dismissed the impacts of the mine on the Tsilhqot’in people as insignificant;

WHEREAS the EAO has advised the Tsilhqot’in Nation that it is proceeding to consider the application by Taseko Mines Limited (TML) to amend its existing provincial certificate for Prosperity Mine to conform to the New Prosperity design. In effect, the EAO is considering provincial approval for New Prosperity, notwithstanding the fact that the project is dead and cannot be built in the face of the rejection by the Federal Government;

WHEREAS the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples states:

Article 26 (1): Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired.
Article 27: States shall establish and implement, in conjunction with Indigenous peoples concerned, a fair, independent, impartial, open and transparent process, giving due recognition to Indigenous peoples’ laws, traditions, customs and land tenure systems, to recognize and adjudicate the right of Indigenous peoples pertaining to their lands, territories and resources, including those which were traditionally owned or otherwise occupied or used. Indigenous peoples shall have the right to participate in the process.
Article 29: Indigenous peoples have the right to the conservation and protection of the environment and the productive capacity of their lands or territories and resources;
Article 32
(1) Indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources.
(2) States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources;

WHEREAS the Tsilhqot’in Nation and its communities endured two separate federal environmental assessment processes for the Prosperity and New Prosperity Mine proposals;

WHEREAS in each review, an independent federal panel emphasized the profound cultural and spiritual importance of Teztan Biny and Nabas to the Tsilhqot’in people, as a gathering place, as a cultural school for youth, as a place of spiritual power and healing, as sacred burial and cremation grounds, and as critical hunting, trapping, fishing and gathering areas;

WHEREAS the federal panel for New Prosperity Mine warned that the mine would “endanger their ability to sustain their way of life and cultural identity”;

WHEREAS the federal panel for Prosperity Mine expressly noted that the EAO had reached its decision without the benefit of the substantial information it received directly from First Nations members in community hearings, and without the submissions of federal departments, which raised serious concerns with the project;

WHEREAS the EAO has rejected the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s position that it is egregious and absurd to both consider further provincial approvals at this time and to subject the Tsilhqot’in people to yet another approval process. The EAO has said it has no choice but to consider TML’s application after a letter from TML to the Premier demanding the amendment, and threatening the Province with litigation;

WHEREAS TML has also advised the Tsilhqot’in Nation that it intends to apply for further drilling throughout the Teztan Biny and Nabas region, despite the federal rejection of New Prosperity;

WHEREAS the Tsilhqot’in Nation advanced the struggle for free, prior, informed consent with the historic decision in Tsilhqot’in Nation v British Columbia;

WHEREAS Teztan Biny and Nabas are within the proven Aboriginal rights area declared in Tsilhqot’in Nation, within the Dasiqox Tribal Park established by the Tsilhqot’in Nation, and subject to the 1989 Nemiah Declaration and the Tsilhqot’in Nation Mining Policy, all of which emphasize the need for Tsilhqot’in consent;

WHEREAS by UBCIC Resolution 2016-19, “Reforming the BC Environmental Assessment Act”, the UBCIC Chiefs Council called for a complete review and legislative reform of the British Columbia Environmental Assessment Act; and

WHEREAS as directed by UBCIC Resolution 2010-32 and 2011-35, the UBCIC Chiefs Council has provided unwavering support to the Tsilhqot’in Nation throughout the process and this support has been critical to the success of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to date.

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED the UBCIC Chiefs-in Assembly fully support the efforts of the Tsilhqot’in Nation to protect their lands of profound cultural and spiritual value from the proposed New Prosperity Mine, and will stand behind the Tsilhqot’in Nation in defense of these lands regardless of any amendment process or decision by the Environmental Assessment Office (EAO) or British Columbia;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the UBCIC Chiefs-in Assembly condemn the EAO’s decision to consider an amendment that would approve New Prosperity, in the face of the Federal Government’s firm rejection of this proposal, and under the cloud of political pressure and threats of litigation from Taseko Mines Limited (TML) against the Province;

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED the UBCIC Chiefs-in Assembly direct the UBCIC Executive to advise the EAO and British Columbia that First Nations across the province are bearing witness to the New Prosperity amendment process and are alarmed and deeply concerned by the EAO’s apparent lack of integrity, and its disregard for the interests of First Nations in this province; and

THEREFORE BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED the UBCIC Chiefs-in Assembly direct the UBCIC Executive to continue advocating on behalf of the Tsilhqot’in Nation and publicly communicate the clear support of the UBCIC Chiefs-in-Assembly for the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s efforts to protect their lands from the proposed New Prosperity Mine.

Moved: Chief Francis Laceese, Tl’esqox First Nation
Seconded: Art Anthony, Neskonlith Indian Band (Proxy)
Disposition: Carried
Date: September 23, 2016

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