Accountability in Tahltan country? (1)

Northwestern BC is quickly becoming thehotspot for indigenous issues in BC. And Tahltan territory is where the glowing coals may soon burst into flames.

OnOctober 30, 400 First Nations from across the north gathered in Terrace tocelebrate the courage of the 14 Tahltan elders and youth (and 1 supporter) who werearrested protecting the Sacred Headwaters of the Stikine, Skeena and Nass fromFortune Minerals’ proposed open pit coal mine. The celebration in Terrace lasted almost 8hours, with speeches, songs, drumming and a feast. Chief Luis Louie was also horoured for 30 years of service as chief of the Iskut Band.

At the end of the gathering representatives ofseven northern nations issued a declaration which stated,

Today we gather to support the Elders and families inprotecting Klappan Mountain, the SacredHeadwaters of the Nass, Skeena and Stikine Rivers. The Nations ofNorthern BC will stand with those who step forward to protect their lands andwaters.  New development in ourterritories will only proceed with our free, prior and informed consent.”

Thecharges against the arrestees were dropped, but the arrestees and hundreds of thier supporters gathered outside the court house the next day to emphasize thier committment to keep fighting.

While the contempt process is over, a number of new legal actions havebeen launched:

  1. FortuneMinerals which got an injunction based on its claimed need to do some testdrilling and scientific assessments is now trying to go to court to get itsinjunction extended for a full year. The hearing is Monday Nov 14thin Vancouver, but this time the Tahltanwill be represented and have a chance to defend their position and exposeFortune Minerals’ misrepresentations.
  2. Lastweek two directors of the Tahltan Central Council (TCC) wrote to the Registrarof Societies requesting an investigation into the TCC’s violation of its ownbylaws. It is unusual for directors to have to seek help from the Registrar toaddress governance issues and if the Registrar does not begin an investigationI expect the matter to end up in court.

Amongthe concerns raised by the two directors are the : 

  • appointment of directors, in violation of the bylaws which requireelection,
  • replacement of directors at the whim of individuals,
  • failureto provide records to members and directors,
  • lack of notice of annual generalmeeting,
  • meetings being cancelled, then convened with only a select fewinvolved,
  • continued misrepresentations by TCC staff related to events,
  • repeated claimsby TCC staff that they represent other Tahltan groups like the Iskut band whenthey have been repeatedly informed they do not.

Bothof the new legal actions are the beginning of attempts to hold companies likeFortune Minerals and Tahltan leaders accountable.

Forcingthe TCC to be accountable or getting it disbanded is very important for the future of the Tahltan (andthe region) because the TCC is trying to fast track the signing of a controversialparticipation agreement with Nova Gold for their proposed Galore gold mine. (I will write about this in more detail in the next installment.)

The important thing is that the courageous Tahltan working to protect their territory are gathering support, thier resolve is renewed, and they are re-energized.

Watch out Fortune Minerals, watch out TCC. The battle is just beginning.

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