Williams Lake, BC: The Tŝilhqot’in Nation will be seeking a further injunction from the BC Court of Appeal on March 22nd in order to halt a drilling program approved for Teẑtan Biny and surrounding area, an area of profound cultural and spiritual importance for the Tŝilhqot’in people. The Nation calls on all supporters to attend in solidarity for the environment, human rights and Indigenous peoples across Canada. The court hearing and an evening Gathering for Sacred Water coincide with the United Nations’ World Water Day.
The drilling permit was issued by the outgoing B.C. Liberal Government in 2017 for the stated purpose of advancing Taseko’s New Prosperity mine proposal – despite the fact that the Federal Government has twice rejected this project and it cannot be built.
On March 1, 2019, the B.C. Court of Appeal issued a judgment recognizing that the Teẑtan Biny area is an active cultural school for the Tŝilhqot’in, a resting place for ancestors, a site for spiritual and ceremonial activities and “a place of unique and special significance for the Tŝilhqot’in cultural identity and heritage.” The Court of Appeal even stated that a decision by government to reject the drilling program “may well have been reasonable,” but nonetheless upheld the provincial approval for this extensive drilling program.
The Tŝilhqot’in Nation is applying to the Supreme Court of Canada for leave to appeal this judgment.
The area in which the extensive drilling permit has been issued is a site of proven Aboriginal rights to hunt, fish and trap and adjacent to an area of proven and recognized Aboriginal title.
The approval of this permit in the face of such severe cultural and spiritual impacts for the Tŝilhqot’in people is a direct violation of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which the current Provincial government has committed to implement and legislate. Taseko Mines Ltd. has informed the Tŝilhqot’in that they intend to begin the drill program on March 19, 2019. The Tŝilhqot’in have requested that the company hold off on their work until the injunction hearing is heard on March 22. To date the company has refused to stand down.
The Tŝilhqot’in Nation calls on everyone to stand up for future generations and show support at the court hearing or at a special event in the evening in Vancouver. Drummers, Elders and leaders will gather outside the BC Court of Appeal (800 Hornby St #400, Vancouver, BC) from 8:30am-9:15am before entering the court room. In the evening of March 22nd, the Tŝilhqot’in will co-host a Gathering for Sacred Water. More details to follow on the Tŝilhqot’in National Government’s Facebook page.