OTTAWA — A Vancouver company pushing the Harper government to reconsider a controversial gold-copper mining project in the B.C. Interior has privately urged Ottawa to ignore aboriginal requests to consider native “spirituality” as a factor in their determination, according to a letter the company sent to Environment Minister Peter Kent.
A new federal environmental review panel “does not have any right to attribute significance to the spirituality of a place per se,” wrote Taseko Mines Ltd. president Russell Hallbauer in a letter obtained under the Access to Information Act and provided to the Vancouver Sun by B.C. independent provincial representative Bob Simpson.
Taseko, which failed in its 2010 bid to get federal approval after a “scathing” federal review, also asked Ottawa to not permit aboriginal prayer ceremonies at pending hearings on the revised proposal.
And children’s plays should also be banned, Hallbauer told Kent in his November letter.
The panel allowed “a group of kindergarten children to present a play, in which the children wore fish cut-outs on their heads, moved around the floor, and then all fell over simultaneously, symbolizing the death of the fish,” Hallbauer wrote.
Allowing opening prayers wasn’t “appropriate” and a “sensational” anti-project film and the children’s play also shouldn’t have been part of a process that is supposed to be “objective and fact-based.”
The company also complained that one of the three panel members, metallurgist and former environmental mining supervisor Nalaine Morin, was a member of a First Nations organization in the area that was opposed to the project.
One native leader said Taseko’s letter is an affront to aboriginal spirituality.
“We are tied to the land and that’s a spiritual area,” said Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) tribal chair Chief Joe Alphonse of the proposed open-pit mine about 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, B.C.
“To not even have that as part of the review, you may as well not have a review at all. Let’s go turn the Vatican into a cas
“This is exactly what we’re talking about when a company is allowed to make those kinds of suggestions. It’s wrong.”
Another local First Nations leader, Xeni Gwet’in Chief Marilyn Baptiste, likened Taseko’s proposal to the former government-sanctioned residential schools that “outlawed our spirituality, our drumming and our language.”
A federal panel appointed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act ruled in 2010 against allowing the proposed Prosperity Mine to proceed. Then-environment minister Jim Prentice, now a senior executive at the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, called the panel report “scathing,” and the minority Tory government supported the recommendation.
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