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Film expresses Tsilhqot'in connection to area threatened by mine proposal: lawyer

Showing the documentary Blue Gold to a federal panel reviewing Taseko Mines Ltd.'s proposal for a gold and copper mine near Williams Lake would help establish a tone of respect and mutual understanding, argues a lawyer acting for the Tsilhqot'in National Government.

“People are entitled to hold differences of opinions about the mine,” wrote Jay Nelson, a lawyer with the Victoria firm Woodward and Company, responding on behalf of the TNG to Taseko's bid to prevent the film from being shown at the hearings that start March 22. “Attacking differing opinions as 'propaganda' or 'bias' sets the wrong tone for proceedings that are already difficult and divisive.”

The TNG requested the film be screened at the public hearings to address some of the misapprehension and misunderstanding around why the Tsilhqot'in are opposed to the destruction of Teztan Biny, or Fish Lake, Nelson wrote. “Viewing the film, it is abundantly clear that it is not 'propaganda' but rather a genuine attempt by the Tsilhqot’in people to explain and capture their connection to this area.”

Even if others disagree with the Tsilhqot'in people's position, he said, the TNG hopes “the film will foster a deeper appreciation of why the Tsilhqot'in have taken this position.”

Representatives of the TNG will present the film and be available to answer questions, Nelson said. “Formal proceedings and written submissions are far from Tsilhqot’in cultural norms for information sharing,” he said. “Tsilhqot’in people and stories come alive on the land. Filming Elders and members at a community gathering, on their lands, was an attempt to bridge this cultural gap.”

The film is appropriate to show at general hearings on the proposal in Williams Lake, he said. “We strenuously disagree with Taseko’s position that First Nations’ concerns should be confined to hearings in First Nations’ communities. It is important and essential that First Nations’ concerns are part of the broader public debate about this mine proposal – they should not be marginalized or segregated.”

Keith Clark, a lawyer with the Vancouver firm Lang Michener acting for Taseko, argued earlier this week that the film should not be shown at the general hearing. “It is a propaganda film, produced to influence the opinions or behaviour of people, by providing deliberately biased content in an emotional context,” he wrote in a submission to the panel, the Tyee reported.

The panel intends to consider Taseko's objection during its first day of hearings in Williams Lake on March 22, chair Robert Connelly wrote in a March 17 message to participants.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Reach him here.

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