The Campbell Government signed off last year on turning Fish Lake (a.k.a. Teztan Biny), home to 85,000 rainbow trout, into a toxic dump for Taseko Mines’ proposed “Prosperity Mine,” west of Williams Lake. Now, as the federal government wraps up its public Panel Review of the proposal, TheCanadian.org is calling on all Common Sense Canadians to write to Stephen Harper and let him know they what they think of turning lakes into toxic mining dumps. Even the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has expressed grave concerns about this one – and is it any wonder? The plan is to turn a perfectly healthy lake into a tailing pond, then build a new lake to replace it! Where’s the sense in that?
I want to talk about two matters here … and they’re very much related – Fish Lake and the Federal Government’s aquatic policy. I’m deeply indebted to John Werring, Habitat Specialist for the David Suzuki Society, who once worked for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, for much of the background information on this story.
I want to speak especially to citizens who basically support the federal Tories and Liberals, and those who support the Liberals in BC. I’m going to plead with you to put your province and country ahead of politics. If we’re going to have any chance at all to save our environment we must rise as one and say that party loyalties must be trumped by caring citizens and that if we don’t take this position, we will be, as Churchill said at the time of Munich in 1938, quoting the Bible, “weighed in the measure and found wanting”.
Our sights must be set mostly on the federal government because the Campbell government has told us, decision by decision, non-decision by non-decision, that they simply don’t care. Wild salmon be damned, lakes and rivers be damned, sensitive ecological areas be damned – we’re going to let our friends in the corporate sector do what they please and any environmental actions we take will be shams and we won’t even try to make it look good.
Campbell & Co, like Harper & Co, couldn’t care less about aboriginal concerns.
Let’s look at Tory policy and come back to Fish Lake specifically in a moment.
Harper has selected 18 lakes or rivers across Canada as open to mines for dumping their tailings into. This is where their heads are!
A recent survey by Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), looking at key sustainability indicators, found that over half of our rivers and lakes in Canada are fair to poor in terms of water quality.
It is the firm policy of the Tory government that Aquaculture will double – and DFO has been warned not to even mention “closed containment”.
We have, John Werring observes, on a broad range of environmental issues, reached the tipping point and the public is still dozing, content or at least complacent with governments’ unwillingness to protect the environment and the creatures in it.
Let’s tackle the existing government policy head on: they believe that corporations will find it in their interest to care for the environment so we needn’t trouble them with tiresome regulations let alone enforcement.
Many years ago, our local and very influential right wing think tank, the Fraser Institute, put out a study that claimed that it would be in the public interest for all rivers to be privately owned. The then Executive Director, Michael Walker, told me that private use would mean the best available use.
Stunned, I replied, “But the best available use of a river for industry is as a sewer”, the proof of which is evident worldwide. I asked, not believing what I was hearing, what would happen to Rafe Mair’s Fishing Camp, down stream from the Anything Goes Paper Mill when it spilled black liquor into the river and killed all the fish?
He replied that my little fishing camp could sue the company and he was astonished to hear me say that was cold comfort indeed for my little fishing company.
We must understand that the sole rationale for a corporation is to make money – if they are “good corporate citizens” it’s because it’s in their interest to be so.
I believe in the “free market”, provided there are laws and policemen to enforce them. Tories and Campbell Liberals don’t like rules that impede the “progress” of their political donors.
When Campbell came into office I asked Joyce Murray, who was as close as they would get to an environment minister, if she was the policeman in the environment?
Heavens no! she replied, “I’m here to help industry get past all that environmental red tape”. You’ll be comforted to know that she’s a Liberal MP now and, no doubt, she stands up boldly in Caucus for the sanctity of our fish and wildlife with the same dedication we’ve come to expect from her ilk.
Let’s look now at Fish Lake. I’ve written about this on TheCanadian.org – A priceless BC asset threatened by mining – but I want to deal with just two of many available points here.
What the hell sort of society have we become when we would even consider killing 85,000 Rainbow Trout so that a mining company could dump its tailings and assorted crud in their lake – and not see the black humour in their offer to build another lake?
Why aren’t we rising as one in protest? Did our mothers and fathers not instill in us any respect for what God gave us?
Let me pose this question: if killing lakes and all that’s in them is acceptable practice, why hold hearings at all? Better just get on with it rather than waste time with “show” hearings.
Last, but for sure not least, involves First Nations. They aren’t going to lie down and take it either over killing Fish Lake or over the proposed Enbridge Pipeline from the Tar Sands to Kitimat, thence by tanker down the coast. Governments aren’t paying attention – they’d better.
I know we’re all tired. Never in my long life have I seen so many serious assaults on our outdoors by so many people in so many places.
But damn it, we have to fight! This is war! A real war on us by our own governments. We must do all within lawful means to stop these bastards now – for if we don’t, there won’t be much left for those we leave behind.