Liberals failing to live up to First Nations agreements

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VICTORIA – Increased tensions between Tahltan elders and the proponents of an open-pit coal mine in the Sacred Headwaters of the northwest are the direct result of the B.C. Liberals saying one thing before the election and doing the exact opposite after the election, say the New Democrats.

“After signing a shared-decision making agreement with the Tahltan leadership in March, the Liberals turned around after the election and broke that trust,” said New Democrat aboriginal affairs critic Doug Donaldson. “That isn’t good for finding a resolution to this issue, it isn’t good for First Nation relationships with the provincial government, and it doesn’t create confidence for those looking to develop natural resource projects in the province.”

Donaldson said the B.C. Liberals applied to the federal environmental office in May to fast-track the Fortune Minerals application without honouring their promise of consultation with the Tahltan.

Tuesday afternoon, Tahltan elders and community members blocked a fuel truck from gaining entry to a 115 km access road to Fortune Minerals’ exploration camp in the latest escalation since the company was issued an eviction notice by the protestors in mid-August.

“It’s no wonder the Tahltan would have difficulty believing in any commitments the B.C. Liberals make on this issue. Their actions destroy any trust, credibility and goodwill that may have been established,” said Donaldson, the MLA for Stikine.

On Tuesday, Donaldson travelled to Beauty Camp, 500 kilometres north of Hazelton in the Sacred Headwaters, to hear first-hand from elders and community members who are concerned about development activities in the area. RCMP have established a camp nearby where the Tahltan and Fortune are facing off in this isolated wilderness where the rich, wild-salmon bearing Skeena, Nass and Stikine Rivers all begin their journeys to the Pacific Ocean.

“The Liberals’ actions since the election demonstrate they weren’t serious about shared-decision making or their commitment to discuss a protected area designation for the Sacred Headwaters,” said Donaldson.

New Democrats are calling on the government to keep its election promises and honour the non-treaty agreements it has made with B.C.’s First Nations.