Canada PM Trudeau at UN on First Nations Relations


An excerpt from the statement summary:

Statement Summary: 

JUSTIN TRUDEAU, Prime Minister of Canada, recalled that, throughout his country’s history, it had worked hard to achieve its ambitions at home and elsewhere in the world. Canada was built on the ancestral land of indigenous peoples, he recalled, and was regrettably a country that came into being without the meaningful participation of those who were first there. The indigenous peoples were the victims of a Government that did not respect them, their traditions, their attributes, their way of governance, or their laws. They were victims of a Government that sought to rewrite their unique history and refused to protect the lands and water. It was a great shame that that lack of respect persisted today.

First Nations leaders in Washington to stop pipeline

The Canadian Press

Canadian First Nations leaders are in Washington to try to persuade U.S. officials to reject a pipeline project they say will pump more “dirty oil” from Alberta into the U.S.

Francois Paulette, a former Dene chief, says oilsands pollution already affects more than 30 First Nations communities and increasing production will make matters worse.

He says a recent study linked oilsands operations to high levels of lead, mercury and other heavy metals in the Athabasca River system.

Paulette wants a moratorium on the Keystone X-L pipeline expansion which has been approved in Canada and now needs approval from Washington.

The TransCanada pipeline would reach all the way to the Gulf Coast.

The aboriginal leaders have meetings with the State Department, a White House environment council, the Department of Interior, the Canadian Embassy, and congressional officials.

Gold mining opposed by aboriginals in Canada’s British Columbia

VANCOUVER, Sep. 18, 2010 (Xinhua News Agency) — Gold mining on Mount Milligan in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia has hit road bump as aboriginals there took the case to the court.

Some 1,800 members of the Nakazdli First Nation band are engaged in a legal battle with the government for the rights and title interests over the mountain, and has served eviction notice to the mining company that tries to work on the mountain’s troubled copper-gold mines.

For now, court proceedings have been adjourned to allow time for disputing parties to try to conclude an agreement. However, as the issue remains unsettled, the prospect for gold-mining on Mount Milligan looks uncertain.

“The Nakazdli and the Province (of British Columbia) have been in recent discussions regarding the Mount Milligan project,” Jake Jacobs, spokesperson of the Ministry of Energy Mines and Petroleum Resources, told Xinhua. “There has been significant progress in negotiations.”

Anne Sam, spokesperson of the Nakazdli band, explained that band members are trying to protect their way of life. “If mining does go ahead, we can never hunt in this area again. All the fish, bears, beavers, birds will be scared away because mining runs 24 hours. We will have to be drinking the water and eating the animals taking in contaminants. We are being asked to give up the life we know, our way of life,” Sam told Xinhua.

The Mount Milligan mine, located 155 km northwest of Prince George in central British Columbia, covers parts of the territories of the Nakazdli First Nation. With government’s consent, it has become an asset of the Terrane Metals Corporation, the gold-mining company, since 2006.

A Terrane Metals 2009 feasibility study put the open pit mine in the second place in terms of size of gold reserves in Canada, after Red Lake in Ontario.

“It’s unfortunate,” Terrane Metals Vice President Glen Wonders commented on the legal battle. “The band is challenging the degree of consultation.”

“Are we optimistic of the outcome? Yes,” Wonders told Xinhua.

Despite the court case and eviction notice, Terrane Metals has started an initial phase of construction in preparation for future production. “We are basically focusing on improving the access road to the site,” described Wonders. “There is already an existing road of five to 10 years old, now we are upgrading and widening it.”

While production on Mount Milligan is being planned, the Nakazdli First Nation is standing firm on their pledges.

“We need to talk about sustainability,” insisted Sam. “Nobody really asked how this is going to impact the environment.”

Sam told Xinhua that Terrane Metals did consult the Nakazdli band at the beginning. “They started off with good intentions, then they saw that we have lots of questions and concerns. They did not deal with our questions and concerns upfront. I think we would have more than willing to talk.”

Terrane Metals has proposed to include band members in job creation, but Sam did not find it satisfactory.

“We are not happy with Terrane Metals who refused an impact agreement that our community put forward to them,” she said. “You can look at what’s happening now, no band people have been hired as Terrane employees. We see very little amount of opportunities.”

In a document discussing landscape management, Terrane Metals said that “the project will result in no lasting negative residual effects on wildlife, fish and aquatic habitat, water resources, vegetation and plant communities, and on visual and aesthetic resources from the facilities at Mount Milligan.”

It also said that after the mining projects, proven closure approaches and technologies will be used to restore lands affected by mining to a productive biological condition.

“They say the animals will come back in 50 years, but that is a whole generation,” Sam responded. “Ours is a family system, we only hunt and fish in certain areas, but the wildlife there will be totally wiped out. Who is speaking for the animals? We rely on the animals, and their habitats provide for them.”

“We want to keep the way we live, generation after generation. No amount of money will be able to replace a whole way of living,”

Sam said. “The land made us who we are.”

Although Terrane Metals has not reached any agreement with the Nakazdli band, it did successfully secure alliance with the neighboring McLeod Lake Indian band, another aboriginal band with territories sitting on the Mount Milligan mine, to “share benefits.”

NPR on the Olympics and First Nations

From NPR (article, transcript, and audio) (H.T. to A.K.):

And organizers of the Winter Olympics have made a big deal about including Canada’s Indians. Four native groups in the Vancouver area are official co-hosts, and native art is the basis for a lot of this year’s Olympic merchandising. But as NPR’s Martin Kaste reports, some native people accuse their leaders of selling out.

MARTIN KASTE: Last week, a small crowd of Canadian natives gathered in Vancouver to watch a bubble inflate.

Unidentified Group: Three, two, one.

Unidentified Man: (Singing in foreign language)

KASTE: This inflatable dome is the Aboriginal Pavilion, a showcase for native arts and culture located on prime Olympic real estate, just a couple of blocks from the hockey arena.

Tewanee Joseph is a member of the Squamish nation. His people have land in and around the city of Vancouver. And from the start, he says, they’ve insisted on being full partners in the Vancouver Games.

Mr. TEWANEE JOSEPH (CEO, Four Host First Nations Society): Our chief said, we’re not going to be just brought out for beads and feathers. This has to be meaningful participation.

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Palin’s Pipeline and Canadian First Nations

From Newsweek (H/t BB):

The principal achievement of Sarah Palin‘s term as Alaska’s governor, a natural-gas pipeline project backed by $500 million in state tax money, might never be built unless Canadian authorities can strike a deal with some of the country’s angry Indian tribes. Approximately half of the proposed pipeline would run through Canada; native tribes who live along its route complain they haven’t been consulted about it and are threatening to sue unless they are compensated. Representatives of the canadian tribes, known as First Nations, say Palin and other pipeline proponents are treating them with disrespect. The tribes’ lawyers warn that the courts are on their side and say the Indians have the power to delay the pipeline for years—or even kill it entirely by filing endless lawsuits.

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