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'Serious trouble' if BC allowed lead on environmental assessments: Chief

If British Columbia and Canada were ever to harmonize their environmental assessment processes, as Premier Gordon Campbell has proposed, it had better be with the more rigorous federal system.

So says Marilyn Baptiste, chief of the Xeni Gwet'in, part of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation, who have been fighting against the approval of the proposed Prosperity Mine near Williams Lake that would destroy Fish Lake, or Tetzan Biny.

The mine passed a provincial environmental assessment and is awaiting a decision from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's cabinet after a federal environmental review found there would have significant adverse effects on the environment.

Baptiste said the Tsilhqot'in declined to participate in the provincial process, which she described as a “rubber stamp”.

“If they're looking to push for one environmental assessment process that's led by B.C., then we're all in serious trouble, obviously,” said Baptiste. “I would say it should not be led by B.C.. It's obvious what B.C. is for. It's all about the B.C. government and big industry benefiting, not looking out for the ecosystem and future generations.”

Campbell spoke to the Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Whistler on Oct. 1, two days after delegates voted to oppose the premier's push to harmonize federal and provincial environmental assessment processes, and cited the Prosperity Mine as a reason why it would be better to have a single review process. “One process for one project does not mean that there's not thorough and detailed and comprehensive and diligent scientific review in terms of the environmental objectives,” he said.

“When you have a project like the Prosperity Mine, which has gone through process after process after process, consultation after consultation, 17 years, received environmental approvals, received support, we should actually get on with sending the message that mining is here in British Columbia,” he said.

The government has argued that the mine will create hundreds of jobs and some $340 million a year in GDP growth.

“Our land is not for sale,” said Baptiste. “Our way of life is not for sale. Our culture is not for sale.”

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

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