Accountability in Tahltan country? (2)

As Accountability in Tahltan Country?(1) described, First Nations in Northwestern BC are opposed to business asusual development within their territories. They are raising questions aboutwhether the “new relationship” the Premier is touting is real or just morerhetoric. And Tahltan territory is where flames are likely to erupt again.

Thelegal sparring with Fortune Minerals is about to enter round two with a hearingthis week to extend the injunction for a year. Simultaneously, the TahltanCentral Council (TCC) is being challenged by its own directors for violatingits bylaws and operating more like a social club than a society that claims tobe the Tahltan national government.

Buta new struggle is developing over how the TCC has been negotiating its supportfor Nova Gold’s proposed Galore gold mine.

Remember it was after some Tahltanleadership tried to over ride opposition to Nova Gold’s proposal to build aroad along the Stikine (the southern route) to access the mine that theElders asked for Jerry Asp’s resignation and began a sit in at the Tahltan Bandoffice that lasted eight months.

Althoughthe TCC has so far refused to release the 128 page draft agreement, they have beenholding community meetings to try to force a vote on the agreement on November30.

Thereis no need for the shotgun approach being taken by the TCC. In fact, it is notvery strategic for a First Nation like the Tahltan to bind itself to support aproject like Galore, before the environmental assessment process is final. Howwould local people know what the potential impacts could be?

Thosethat have reviewed the publicly available terms of the still secret agreementbelieve that the TCC is leaving a lot on the table and that the Tahltan couldobtain more benefits by renegotiating and by maintaining their leverage untilthe assessments are complete.

Thisis just the latest example illustrating why many Tahltan are opposing theTCC.   A growing number of Tahltan arefighting back. Over 225 Tahltan-15% of local Tahltan residents have signed apetition calling for accountable Tahltan government and for the dissolution ofthe TCC.

Unfortunately,while the Tahltan elders and youth working to protect the Sacred Headwaters arerelying on passing the hat, the BC government has been generously supportingthe TCC. In a recent article, Minister of Mines Bill Bennett acknowledged that his government gavethe TCC “$150,000 in August to developits own ways of handling the dispute.”

The internal disputes withinthe Tahltan are complex and best dealt with internally. However, it doesn’thelp that Fortune Minerals, Nova Gold and the BC Liberals have been choosingsides.

The Tahltan need to choosetheir own representatives, and provide their own mandate.

Easier said then done.That’s why the Tahltan Elders called for a moratorium on all new resourcedevelopment until internal issues were resolved and the Crown and companiesagreed to conditions to evaluate cumulative effects, share decision making andrevenue.  None of these conditions havebeen met and that is why many are suspicious of the proposed Galore deal.  

But there is good news.Marie Quock was elected chief by the Iskut Band yesterday.

Marie had been aband councilor as well as Band Manager. Marie is very concerned about proposedactivities in the Sacred Headwaters and has consistently shown an interest inbringing the Tahltan people together.

Marie and the rest of the Iskut council including former Chief Louis Louie were instrumental in shutting down Shell’s coalbed methane exploration. Marie has also sworn an affidavit that will be used in Monday’s hearing to oppose Fortune Minerals’ attempts to extend their injunction.

The Iskut people are uniting around responsible development. That is not good news for the TCC. We’ll keep you posted on how events unfold.

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