Williams Lake, BC. Jan, 25, 2015: This week’s annual Vancouver Roundup could be a turning point if the BC mining industry and the provincial government can shake off the past and adopt a visionary approach, says BC’s First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining.
“If this year’s Roundup focuses on how to hold on to control of the industry rather than sharing it, then we will remain on a path of confrontation and BC will be in no position to capitalize when the markets rebound,” said FNWARM Chair Bev Sellars, who is also Chief of the Xat’sull (Soda Creek) First Nation.
“But this can be a watershed year that places the province at the forefront of the mineral extraction sector in the 21st Century – if change is accepted and First Nations are embraced as true partners.”
Chief Sellars likened the decision now facing the BC industry and government to the one that faced the all-male establishment when it was pressed to give women the vote. “Both can be seen as a battle between those who do not want to share power and control, and those who realize that change is both inevitable and for the better,” she said.
“Just as there were those who insisted women could not possibly be trusted with important decisions or political influence and should be kept in their place, so there are those today who would argue First Nations cannot be trusted to understand mining and business and should be kept in their place,” said Chief Sellars.
“History proved how wrong the reactionaries of old were, and those who view First Nations today in the same dismissive way are equally wrong – morally, politically and economically.”
FNWARM believes change is inevitable and is being driven by a combination of: court victories culminating in the Tsilhqot’in Supreme Court ruling; International standards with the United Nations, UNDRIP the economic leverage First Nations now have; public support for fair treatment of First Nations and shared concern for the environment; and growing awareness of the flaws in the existing system as evidenced most recently by the Mount Polley disaster.
One way to create a new working relationship with First Nations is to treat seriously the growing number of communities that are developing their own regulations to govern mining and other resource developments on their traditional lands, such as the recently released and highly detailed mining policy and regulations released by Chief Sellars’ Xat’sull community and three other North Shuswap First Nations impacted by the Mount Polley disaster.
FNWARM also calls on the Roundup participants to embrace “aboriginal ranger” programmes to monitor and manage protected areas, and to ensure that where resource development does occur the regulations and conditions are respected and environmental impacts are carefully assessed.
FNWARM member and Xeni Gwet’in FN Councilor Marilyn Baptiste, whose Tsilhqot’in community is working to create a tribal park that would include Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and the site targeted by Taseko Mines Ltd for its twice rejected New Prosperity open-pit mine, said: “Who better to take on these roles than the people who live in the mostly remote areas where projects are pursued and have protected the lands and waters for countless generations.”
Chief Bev Sellars: (250) 267-6924