Local 3570

Local 3570

Tahltan Resistance to Mining, Drilling Grows

Tahltan Resistance to Mining, Drilling Grows
Iskut band joins Telegraph Creek protest and rebuffs Shell execs.
Mon., Mar. 7, 2005
By Monte Paulsen

The Iskut band has joined the Telegraph Creek elders' protest against development on traditional Tahltan territory in northern British Columbia. The Iskut band also quit the pro-development Tahltan Tribal Council that promised to fast track several mining projects and an unconventional gas field.

Dressed in traditional regalia, a group of Iskut elders confronted representatives of Shell Canada on March 2. Led by Iskut Chief Louis Louie, they told Shell that the Iskut First Nations Band Council would enforce the moratorium adopted by the Telegraph Creek elders in mid-February.

"There will be no business on Tahltan lands in respects to resource development due to the moratorium that was imposed by our hereditary elders council," Chief Louie told the Shell representatives.

Iskut is the second largest Tahltan community, and the only village other than Telegraph Creek to have an elected chief. The Iskut endorsement suggests that support for the Telegraph Creek elders is widespread among the estimated 1,500 Tahltan who live in northern B.C. Likewise, the participation of Chief Louie -- who had not previously objected to these development plans -- suggests a sea change among Tahltan leaders.

Deal offered 'certainty'

"Our land is our kitchen," elder James Dennis told the Shell team. “When you bring your poison onto our land you are poisoning our kitchen.” Dennis’ family territory is within the Klappan-Groundhog Coalfields from which Shell Canada hopes to extract a form of gas called coalbed methane.

Upon learning that the public meetings they’d come to attend were cancelled, the Shell delegation left Iskut. “A group of elders presented us with their moratorium, and invited us to leave,” said Shell Canada spokesman Jeff Mann. “We respected their wishes.”

“This reinforced for us the need to engage with the broader community,” Mann continued. “We are aware there is an internal process taking place in the Tahltan community. The most respectful thing we can do is to allow the Tahltan to work through these issues on their own.”

The Iskut band council withdrew from the Tahltan Central Council the following day. Like the seizure of the band office at Telegraph Creek, the Iskut are protesting the council’s November 2004 deal with the province under which the council would receive $250,000 a year to smooth the way for future mining, forestry and hydro projects.

Shell Canada’s Mount Klappan gas field was one of several projects promised “certainty” by that deal. Shell holds exclusive exploration rights to look for oil and gas in a 400 hectare tenure within the Bowser Basin, which holds an estimated 9 per cent of B.C.’s coalbed methane potential. The company drilled core samples at three sites in 2004, and ran a seismic line along an existing railbed.

“What we learned in 2004 is that we need to learn more,” Mann said. “We will have to do some more consultation to identify if there is a way to more forward with further exploration.”

Also promised fast-track treatment under the controversial November deal were NovaGold Resources' Galore Creek gold and copper mine, bcMetals' Red Chris gold and silver mine, Fortune Minerals' Mount Klappan open-pit coal mine, and Coast Mountain Power's Forest Kerr hydroelectric dam.

Moratorium legal?

The elders claim the November 2004 memorandum of understanding was illegally created, and are preparing to challenge it in court.   “All agreements negotiated with industry and government to date… are hereby declared void,” the elders’ moratorium declaration asserts, adding: “We will defend in any way necessary our rights and freedoms, to be self-determining.”

The occupation of the Telegraph Creek band office --- now entering its eighth week --- has remained peaceful thus far, despite allegations of intimidation and harassment. The Tahltan elders --- in their sixties, seventies and eighties --- took over the two-storey administration building on Jan. 17.

The Tahltan protest is one of several current First Nations protests against the pace of development in rural B.C. Other ongoing conflicts include a mining moratorium near Fort St. James and a logging blockage in Kingcome Inlet.

Iskut is located on Hwy. 37 about 1,000 kilometres northwest of Vancouver. Telegraph Creek is seated on the Stikine River at about the same latitude.

Monte Paulsen is a contributing editor to The Tyee.

Activists to NDP, Greens: 'Get Along'
'Broad Coalition' pushes to stop splitting votes this time around.
Mon., Mar. 7, 2005
By Andrew MacLeod

For those who want to see British Columbia elect a "progressive" government on May 17, it's easy to look at the supporters of the New Democratic Party and the Green Party and want to lump them together.

"Yes, our parties are different and they focus on some different things," says Susan Clarke, a peace activist and Green Party member who speaks for the Broad Coalition, a group of women from the two parties who would like to see them co-operate more. But when it comes to talking about what's important to members of the two parties, she says, "our common value is our value of the commons. Both parties cherish the commons and that is really, really important."

By combining the Green and NDP votes, the thinking goes, progressive candidates would have a better chance of winning. It's an idea that comes up regularly in British Columbia politics, especially as the Greens have built support and increased their share of the popular vote.

Targeting winnable races

In practical terms, Clarke says, co-operating means the NDP might not run candidates in constituencies where the Greens have a shot at winning, and the Greens might not run in seats where the NDP and the Liberals are likely to be close.

"Splitting the vote is not a good election strategy," says Clarke. In the 2001 election, the Liberals won 77 of the 79 available seats in the legislature. In about nine of those races, she says, co-operation between the Greens and NDP would have made a difference. Progressives still wouldn't have taken the election, but they would have had a much larger voice in the legislature.

This time, she says, the Broad Coalition is organizing to stop a repeat of 2001. They have a meeting set for 7 p.m. March 8 at Victoria's downtown library, and have had previous public meetings in Victoria, Comox, Nanaimo and Nelson, and on Salt Spring Island. They have a website to promote the idea.

"It's a key election for British Columbia," she says, with another Liberal election promising four more years of the neo-conservative privatization agenda. And now is the time when the leaders are listening to what's important to people. "This is a very sensitive window of time. This is perhaps the most sensitive window of time . . . This is the time that we want to ramp up some of that activity that has been happening across the province and give it a little more focus."

Over the past year or so they did some surveying, she says, and found a majority of voters from all the parties supported the idea of the Greens and NDP co-operating. "It made us feel more confident about bringing the idea into the public."

Awkward couple

So what do the parties have to say about it?

"I think people want political parties to co-operate on issues," says Adriane Carr, the leader of the province's Green Party. She looked for that kind of co-operation in her campaign for a proportional representation electoral system, she says, first from Joy MacPhail when she was leader of the NDP and then from Carole James when she won the leadership, but found no support. "You can't cooperate with them. They're not willing to co-operate. It's not possible, much as some people would like them to co-operate."

Besides, she goes on, there really are some major differences between the parties. "The NDP doesn't grasp that there are limits to growth," she says. For example, despite putting a moratorium on new fish farms, she says, while in power the NDP allowed the industry to go ahead and double the size of existing fish farms. "We would phase out fish farms because they are unhealthy, unecological and unsustainable."

Fish farms aren't the only example. The NDP made the first steps on bringing the 2010 Winter Olympics to Vancouver and Whistler, set the RAV project in motion in Vancouver and first proposed adding a natural gas pipeline across Georgia Straight to power three gas-fired electricity generation plants on Vancouver Island. Says Carr: "Both the NDP and the Liberals are mega-project oriented."

Over at NDP headquarters, there is no official position on the question of co-operating with the Greens. A party media relations person said he'd put the question through to Gerry Scott, the NDP's provincial secretary, but it was unlikely anyone would have anything to say on the subject. The party will be running a candidate in every constituency.

The Stephen Harper lesson

Despite the official silence, one election insider says there is worry among NDP strategists about splitting the vote with the Greens. But instead of co-operation, the source says, expect to see the NDP campaign targeting what they see as a soft Green vote.

The strategy would be similar to what played out in the recent federal election, with Liberal leader Paul Martin appealing to NDP voters by saying a vote for the Liberals was the best way to keep Stephen Harper and the Conservatives out of office. When polls are tight, as they were in that election and they have been for the provincial election, it can be a very effective strategy.

Most Green voters agree, the insider says, the most important thing this election is to get rid of Gordon Campbell, or at least send him a strong message. When you ask people what they think is the best way to do that, they conclude on their own the answer is to vote NDP.

If the parties won't co-operate, says the Broad Coalition's Clarke, as the election draws near the coalition will start endorsing candidates in different constituencies. "It's a bit of a voter revolt," she says. "It's like the people in power just play with us, so maybe we'll play with them. It will deal with some of the frustrations of being a voter in B.C."
How much crossover?

But even with co-operation, says political analyst Bernard Schulmann, nobody should assume that every Green voter is going to dutifully mark their ballot for an NDP candidate, or vice versa. "Your average Green voter is not going to vote NDP," he says. A recent poll looking at Greens' second choices, he says, showed around 40 percent would vote NDP, but 30 percent would go to the Liberals and another 30 percent wouldn't vote at all. "The NDP is not the natural home for a lot of Greens."
And even putting that aside, combining Green and NDP votes wouldn't have made much difference in the last election, he says. "Even if every person who voted green ended up voting NDP, the Liberals would still have won a huge honking majority."

At most about 10 seats would have been taken from the Liberals, making the split 67 to 12. "The opposition might have been a little bit better," he says. "It wouldn't have made any difference to how we're governed right now."

Andrew MacLeod is on staff at Monday Magazine and contributes articles to The Tyee.

NDP leader lays out plan for redirecting 'slush fund' cash in campaign speech
Canadian Press
Monday, March 07, 2005
VANCOUVER - B.C.'s New Democrat leader delivered a fiery campaign speech full of party promises this weekend at the last NDP council meeting before the May 17 election.

Carole James made seven campaign commitments, including ending privatization in health care, opening more long-term care beds for seniors, and freezing tuition.

"Let's get down to business because we've got an election to win!" she shouted above cheers from the party faithful. She says it can be done by shifting priorities and re-directing dollars. "We know that we can look at re-allocating some of the money Liberals are spending," she said. "And we certainly know they have an over $200-million slush fund that is unallocated in next year's budget." The Liberals say that cash is for municipal infrastructure projects, the details of which have yet to be finalized. James argues it should be spent on health care and education.

James also pledged to bring back the Ministry of Environment and get rid of the $6 training wage.

Musqueam win golf course treaty fight 
Last Updated Mar 7 2005 03:24 PM PST
CBC News

VANCOUVER – The Musqueam First Nation has won its legal battle to block the provincial government's 2003 sale of Vancouver's University Golf Course to UBC.

The B.C. Court of Appeal has ordered the sale reversed.

The Musqueam claim the popular 18-hole course as part of its traditional territory – which is in one of Vancouver's wealthiest neighbourhoods

But the province went ahead and sold the course – which is designated as Crown land – to the University of B.C. without consulting the band.

The Musqueam is currently involved in treaty negotiations with the provincial government. And Chief Ernie Campbell says that the sale to a third party took the land "off the table."

The provincial government had argued that it had done nothing wrong by selling the property, and had never promised to set aside the land for a possible treaty settlement.

But Musqueam lawyer Maria Morellato says the court has ruled that the province is breaching its duty by selling the native-claimed land when it's negotiating a treaty.

The land has been used as a golf course for the past 75 years, with the current lease not expiring to 2015.

Full text of B.C.Court of Appeal decision

The Best Property in Town: CBC Sunday Edition

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McMartin misrepresents the Greenpeace campaigners
Letter to the Editor
Vancouver Sun
Monday, March 07, 2005

Re: Parks are for people, not just eco-elites, Pete McMartin, Feb. 28

Pete McMartin misrepresents the 1980 Greenpeace campaigners in Spatsizi park, as eco-elites "cosily sheltered" in cabins on the day he was there.

Greenpeace first went to Spatsizi in 1979, after photographer Jim Wright urged us to stop the slaughter of the park's animals. Grant Hazelwood, the parks branch chief biologist, had voiced concern about the decline of the caribou and sheep, and a study by the University of Victoria had concluded, "hunting should cease."

On my first visit, I met Dino Austin from the Hagwilget First Nation Band, who showed us the carcasses of nine dead Stone sheep with the antlers cut off. We confronted American and Swedish hunting parties and engaged in respectful dialogue with outfitters Reg and Ray Collingwood.

The following year, however, when McMartin visited the park, a group of hunters attacked a Greenpeace camp and beat eight campers with two-by-fours, stole their camping gear, and left them bruised and bloody in the hills. The environmentalists of that era performed a valuable service by bringing this issue to the public's attention, at great risk to themselves.

Rex Weyler

Government Moving Under Radar to Align with U.S.
3.03.2005. The federal government's soon-to-be-released foreign policy review will say little, if anything, about one of its most important priorities — aligning its policies and regulations with those of the U.S. This so-called "deep integration" initiative goes far beyond what Canadians think of as free trade, into the heart of domestic policy-making.

Make the Senior Years Safe: End Elder Abuse
1.03.2005. Sexual violence is a form of elder abuse most often perpetrated against women during their senior years by someone they know, often a family member. Senior women are afraid to report the abuse because they may feel ashamed or powerless, they are afraid they may be called liars or crazy and they fear they may be cut off from grandchildren or community.