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Campbell's mining stance insults First Nations: Chief

British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell is insulting First Nations when he says his support for an environmentally destructive mining project is in their best interest, says a chief opposed to the project.

“We're the ones that will make that decision for ourselves,” said Chief Joe Alphonse, tribal chairman for the Tsilhqot'in National Government. “We don't need another race of people coming in and telling us what's good for us. We don't need a group of individuals coming in and telling us what's good for Indians.”

Speaking in an interview this week, Alphonse responded to Campbell's Oct. 1 speech to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler. In that speech Campbell called on the federal government to approve Taseko Mines Ltd.'s proposed Prosperity Mine near Williams Lake, even though it would destroy a lake and is strongly opposed by local First Nations.

Approving mining projects is in First Nations' best interests, Campbell argued: “They're going to be real partners--real partners--in the future prosperity generated by mining and forestry and tourism and energy, real partners in our future.”

Campbell's support for the mine ignores science, the results of a recent federal environmental review, and aboriginal interests, said Alphonse. He attributed that support to donations from Taseko and other mining companies to the B.C. Liberal Party.

“It's based strictly on money,” said Alphonse. “There's substantial campaign contributions . . . It's time he do what he's getting paid to do, I guess.”

If Campbell really wanted to aid First Nations he could help them gain access to resources on their traditional lands so they could come up with their own solid plans for how to manage them, Alphonse said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the federal cabinet will decide whether the mine may go ahead.

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

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