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Tsilhqot’in Hold Water Ceremonies As Supreme Court Denies Hearing Appeal on TML Drilling Program

The Tsilhqot’in Nation says it continues to stand strong despite the Supreme Court of Canada deciding not to hear the Nation’s appeal of a permit issued to Taseko’s Mines Limited for an extensive drilling program at Teẑtan Biny (Fish Lake) and surrounding areas.

In the City of Williams Lake, a water ceremony was held at the waters of Williams Lake at Scout Island Thursday morning following a ceremony held earlier at Sheep Creek Bridge on Highway 20.

“I thank you for coming here and to support us,” said Cecil Grinder to the approximate 25 people who took part.

“It’s a battle we have to do to look after waters like these, look after the birds, look after the fish and wildlife that goes along with it, the trees. If we don’t look after it, one day it’s going to destroy us.”

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Sharing stories of his own personal struggles, Grinder added for us to do things in a better way we have to look at what’s happening here and elsewhere.

“This wrong thing that is happening on Earth, how can we turn that story around in a good way? How can we do things in a good way to live with mother earth?

“If we don’t have mother earth here how are we going to live? How are our young ones going to live down the road?”

JP Laplante with the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) said they had received the news this morning that the Supreme Court of Canada would not hear their appeal.

“It wasn’t deciding on a court case. Basically, it’s arguing that it’s of national importance and belongs at the Supreme Court to be heard and the odds of getting that are really slim. It’s between three and five percent of cases that actually get heard by the Supreme Court and they don’t say why,” Laplante said.

“It’s really disappointing because barring a different type of lawsuit it’s the end of the road for this appeal and it means in Canadian courts there are no further steps.”

The exploratory drilling permit authorizes an extensive drilling, road building, and excavation program by Taseko to advance its New Prosperity Mine Project.

The proposed mine has been twice rejected by the Federal Government and cannot be legally constructed as a result.

Laplante said under Taseko’s drilling permit there is a two week notification period to the TNG and province before any work commences.

“For us, we’re going to have a battle out West,” Grinder said.

“It’s not going to be nice but I’m ready for it and I’ve been prepared for it for the last ten years. I have to be at the frontlines. For me and my spouse, our parents were raised there; it’s their territory and we have to look after that part, that history. Again talking about the fish, the wildlife, if we destroy that water what’s going to happen is it is going to destroy everything else that goes right down alongside it just like what happened in Quesnel Lake, the destruction that happened and they [Imperial Metals] got away with it.”

In a news release, TNG Tribal Chairman Chief Joe Alphonse said government and industry are once again ready to threaten their lands and their people, to devastate a place of such spiritual importance to them, and to impact their way of life all in pursuit of gold.

“155 years ago, our Tŝilhqot’in War Chiefs went to war and sacrificed their lives to protect our lands and our way of life when they were threatened by the gold rush. British Columbia and Canada have both exonerated our War Chiefs and recognized them as heroes of our people. But how much has really changed?”

“This simply cannot be acceptable in an age of reconciliation, in a time when government says it is ready to implement the U.N. Declaration and recognize our rights as Indigenous peoples,” Alphonse continued.

“As Tŝilhqot’in people, we have no choice. We have to stand for our values, for our lands, for our future. We are a spiritual people – this is a spiritual war. We call on Premier Horgan and the Government of British Columbia to do the right thing and live up to the commitments it has made to Indigenous peoples.”

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