WILLIAMS LAKE, B.C. - Aug. 15, 2017 – The Ts^ilhqot’in Nation welcomes news that the Federal Government has commenced its own court action to permanently prohibit Taseko Mines Limited (“Taseko”) from carrying out its drilling program at Teztan Biny (Fish Lake).
As a result of the Federal Government’s intervention, and a commitment from Taseko that it will not proceed with the drilling program at this time, the BC Supreme Court has withheld its decision on the interlocutory injunction application argued by the Tsilhqot’in two weeks ago.
The Federal Government filed a petition in the BC Supreme Court on August 10, asserting that Taseko’s drilling program would violate the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and seeking a permanent injunction to prohibit Taseko from undertaking this work.
The Tsilhqot’in Nation had previously brought legal challenges to the Province’s approval for Taseko to conduct extensive drilling, road building and excavation at the Ts^ilhqot’in sacred site of Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and Nabas. The provincial permit was granted in the dying days of the BC Liberal Government, in support of the rejected New Prosperity Mine proposal.
The Tsilhqot’in Nation looks forward to the full hearing of its legal challenges to this provincial approval, and could return to court to seek a decision on its interlocutory injunction application in the future, if needed.
The Government of Canada rejected Taseko’s New Prosperity mine proposal in 2014, and the mine cannot legally be built as matters stand. Prior to taking court action, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency advised the company that the provincially approved drilling program would violate the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
The Ts^ilhqot’in are mounting a public campaign to call on the BC NDP to do the right thing. A petition to the Premier has over 8,000 signatures, and a social media campaign has started on TNG’s Facebook page. The public is invited to upload videos to support Ts^ilhqot’in efforts. Details can be found here.
Chief Russell Myers Ross, Chief of Yunesit’in and Director of the Ts^ilhqot’in National Government, says, "The work our Nation has done to protect Teztan Biny is worth celebrating. The Tsilhqot'in Nation has poured its energy into two Federal assessment processes and has maintained the same position: this is the wrong place for mining activity. It remains clear that we do not want this place disturbed and can only pray that Taseko Mines will respect this. As a leader of Yunesit'in, I intend on investing time through the Dasiqox Tribal Park to define what we want to see in Nabas and Teztan Biny."
Chief Roger William, Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government and Vice-Chair of the Ts^ilhqot’in National Government, says, “We commend the Federal Government for demonstrating the leadership to enforce its environmental laws and to help us ensure that Taseko cannot continue to tear up a very special place to our people, all for a project that has been rejected and cannot be built. It sends a powerful message to our people that the Government of Canada also considers Taseko’s drilling program illegal and is ready to go to court to protect our interests and the environment. This is Xeni Gwet’in’s trapline and inside one of Canada’s only Court Declarations of Aboriginal rights.”
Federal Government Petition to BC Supreme Court (Canada v Taseko Mines Limited, para. 45), says, “There is no public purpose served in allowing Taseko to cause listed environmental effects in pursuit of a mine that has twice been denied the necessary Federal environmental assessment approval as a result of unjustified significant adverse environmental effects.”
Tsilhqot’in Seek Injunctions from BC Supreme Court to Stop Taseko Mines Ltd. Drilling in Tsilhqot’in Territory
Court hearing follows letter from CEAA advising company that drilling program for New Prosperity is illegal
VICTORIA, B.C. - July 31, 2017 – The Tsilhqot’in seek Injunctions in Supreme Court of BC in Victoria today challenging a provincial drilling permit issued to Taseko Mines Limited.
The permit approves an extensive drilling program by Taseko Mines to advance its rejected New Prosperity Mine project. The permit authorizes Taseko to clear 76 kilometres of new or modified trails, 122 exploratory drill holes, 367 excavated test pits and 20 kilometres of seismic lines near Fish Lake, known to the Tsilhqot’in as Teztan Biny, an area of cultural and spiritual significance for the Tsilhqot’in. The Government of Canada rejected Taseko’s New Prosperity mine proposal in 2014, and the mine cannot legally be built as matters stand.
A permit was issued to Taseko Mines on July 14, just four days before new BC Premier John Horgan and his Cabinet were sworn in. This happened while wildfires ravaged the Tsilhqot’in region and Tsilhqot’in communities worked to protect their homes and their future, while attempting to relocate elders, children and others to safety. Taseko Mines is a major donor to the BC Liberal party. According to the Elections B.C. website, Taseko Mines Ltd. donated $123,450 to the BC Liberal Party between 2008 and 2014.
Within two days of notice of the approval of the drilling permits, the Tsilhqot’in filed the following in BC Supreme Court:
· a Petition seeking to quash the permit for breach of the duty to consult and accommodate;
· a Notice of Civil Claim seeking to quash the permits as unjustified infringements of proven and established Tsilhqot’in hunting, trapping and fishing rights in the area; and,
· an injunction in each proceeding that would prohibit Taseko from conducting the drilling program pending the hearing and determination of these cases.
The injunction applications are being argued beginning today in BC Supreme Court in Victoria.
On Friday, July 28, the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency also wrote to Taseko Mines Ltd. advising that the drilling program is illegal under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012.
Public opposition to the proposed New Prosperity Mine has been significant over the past several years and is growing every day. A petition to the Premier of BC to Save Fish Lake currently has over 7,300 signatures. Members of the public can sign the petition at https://you.leadnow.ca/petitions/save-fish-lake-1. In addition, a Feather from Fish Lake social media campaign launched today, and the public is invited to upload videos to support Tsilhqot’in efforts. Details can be found here on TNG’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TsilhqotinNationalGovernment/.
Chief Russell Myers Ross, Chief of Yunesit’in and Director of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, says, “In applying for this permit, Taseko Mines have acted like bullies who have no respect for Indigenous rights and title, or the rule of law. The New Prosperity project has been rejected twice federally, and cannot be built. It is time to move on, and as Tsilhqot'in, we are moving forward with the planning of the Dasiqox Tribal Park based on our own vision and plan for this land and its many resources.”
Chief Roger William, Chief of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nations Government and Vice-Chair of the Tsilhqot’in National Government, says, “Our people are understandably angry, and cannot believe that BC would approve more destruction in an area of such spiritual and cultural importance for us, and in Xeni Gwet’in’s trapline, an area with one of Canada’s only Court Declarations of Aboriginal Rights. We are confident that the BC Supreme Court will hear our concerns and grant an injunction against any drilling activity by Taseko. The BC NDP have inherited this mess from the previous government, and we hope they will act to make things right.”
Tsilhqot’in Elder Norman William, says, “Nabas would not recover from Taseko’s exploration program in my lifetime. I want to be at Y’anah Biny, at home, harvesting for the rest of my life. I don’t understand why the BC government would let Taseko take away our home when Canada has said “no” to Taseko’s mine. I thought my family’s home was safe when Canada said “no” to this mine. If Taseko’s program goes forward, my family and I will lose our home, everything that matters to us as Tsilhqot’in. It would break my heart”
Tsilhqot’in Elder Sonny Lulua, says, “There is so much at stake for us. It is hard to explain. That’s where we hunt if we come from Nemiah. That’s our trapline all over there. That’s our area, that’s where we go. It hurts our culture when it changes like this or when we can’t go in there. It is a threat to our survival. That area has always been a big part of our survival. It was made for us to live off of, for hunting and trapping and medicines”.