Tag Archives: Fish Lake/Teztan Biny

Fish Lake’s Top Defender, Joe Alphonse


Article by Dawn Paley at The Tyee. Joe Alphonse: “At the end of the day, even if the federal government approves this mine, that’s still not a guarantee that the mine is going to become a reality, because we would then be forced to continue to look after our interest. If we have to get on the roads, we’ll get on the roads, if we have to step in the courts, we’ll step in the courts.” Read article


Political contributions, DFO letters, raise more questions about BC’s approval of bad mine


Press release from the Tsilhqot’in National Government.

“Political contribution records show that Taseko Mines Ltd suddenly began funding the BC Liberal Party as the province moved towards an environmental review of its Prosperity mine proposal.

“The company pumped $30,150 into BC liberal coffers over a 12 month period starting in late 2008 as the province geared up for an election and moved towards proceeding with an environmental assessment of the proposed mine.”

Read article


Sustainability and public policy


We the people must do more than oppose environmental nightmares encouraged and sometimes committed by government.

Most, if not all, of the projects The Common Sense Canadian has been involved in, stack the deck from the outset. None could better make my point than Fish Lake in the Chilcotin area which got past the BC Environmental Assessment process like a hot knife through butter.
A federal review panel has has found major faults with the project – in terms of impacts on the environment and First Nations who depend upon it – but the final decision will be made by the Prime Minister.

Fish Lake is a good place to start for today’s rant but it could have started at any number of other projects.

Before we even consider environmental catastrophes like Fish Lake we must, as a society, make up our minds on this fundamental question: when decisions are made, do jobs and taxes trump the environment? If that’s so, we should cast off our cloak of hypocrisy and say so, leaving the Ministry of Environment the sole role of determining what rules will govern HOW, not IF the project is to proceed.

As anyone who has attended these public hearings can tell you,
one is only entitled to deal with the “how” not the “if” – unless you’re the company, in which case you are permitted to present for the meeting and for the media glowing descriptions of the benefits of the project with no risk of contradiction.
The companies invariably hold the meetings in out of the way places in halls that would scarcely handle a Sunday School meeting.

All companies committing environmental catastrophes tell us about the employment they will create. In all cases – you can depend on this – the figures are, to put it kindly, fudged. An excellent example comes out of private power producers who talk about the employment prospects from their dams – oops! I mean weirs – where in fact the only employment is for short term construction,
most of the jobs being low-paying and going to people from outside the project area.
After the dam – oops again, I mean weir – the computerized plant has one or two jobs only.

The tax issue is interesting, for when Premier Gordon (Pinocchio) Campbell was asked what was in it for BC with private power projects, he named off HST, corporate income taxes, municipal taxes, and income taxes on employees.
These same benefits would come from building a red light district.

We, the public, must continue to demand proper hearings on environmental issues as a matter of right.
But there is a much larger issue which we’ve all been avoiding: how long can we continue as a society which practices uncontrolled consumption?

For several years I chaired meetings for Metro Vancouver on sustainability issues. These were not hearings in the true sense and weren’t billed as such. They were opportunities to discuss the feasibility of a project or a policy, the object being that the panel of experts and the audience would be able to detail the problems to be overcome for the benefit of the politicians and staff. This was fair enough
because municipalities do provide citizens opportunities to question whether or not to proceed with a project, as any developer can attest!
I only raise this to tell you that at many of the meetings, as I introduced the panel and the subject, I would ask “where does this all end? Do we just continue to grow and grow assuming that there will always be another field to plow up for houses?” The question was never answered.

This is the decision we must make as citizens – and Fish Lake, private power projects, fish farms, logging, and oil pipelines/tankers all in issue now, bring this question into focus.

Rex Weyler, a co-founder of Greenpeace, made this point a few weeks ago at a public meeting. He simply, but provocatively, asked whether or not we can simply go on consuming and expect to have the goods we consume and still retain our environment? And that’s what Fish Lake and other projects I’ve mentioned are all about. For if our philosophy is that failure to “progress” means we must, like a Ponzi* scheme, move on to the next river, the next valley,
the next species still left in the ocean, we will suffer the fate of all Ponzi schemes – we’ll implode.

We don’t have to rip our environment apart in order
to have a prosperous society, as many world societies – Holland, Belgium and Switzerland come to mind – demonstrate. We are a resource-based economy because we can be not because we must. Fish Lake, private power companies, logging companies, fish farms and piplelines/tankers teach us that the resources we can now exploit
are no longer far away, thus safely out of mind – but still just around the corner.

Unfortunately, 200 years or so of ever-increasing exploitation of resources have created a society that doesn’t want to change. It’s like the fishermen in Newfoundland when their fishery was closed – they demanded the right to do what past generations had always done even though there were no fish left.
Our society wants to fish where there are no fish left, just as we demand the right to mine no matter where the ore is, or the environmental cost of so doing;
we want to log because that’s what we’ve always done; we want to destroy farmland for new neighborhoods and shopping centres just as always has happened; we want the right to fish and destroy habitat at the same time and we want to risk serious and permanent damage where pipelines and tankers go.

The case is irrefutable – we cannot continue this way.

Instead of saying “let’s find new ways to live and earn the money to do so; let’s really learn how to conserve; let’s stop our imbedded habit of built-in obsolescence so that we can use products longer”, we are in denial.
Instead of meeting a very obvious problem head-on and looking for solutions we will carry on until the last fish is killed.

Fish Lake is a message, a symbol that we do have to stop somewhere, re-group and look for ways to re-cast our society so we can live well without destroying our precious environment.

* A Ponzi scheme is an investment fraud that involves the payment of purported returns to existing investors from funds contributed by new investors.


Maude Barlow on Fish Lake and Protecting Canada’s Water


Canadian water warrior and international environmental powerhouse Maude Barlow spoke
recently to a crowd of several hundred in Vancouver on the plan to turn Fish Lake
and possibly 20 other lakes across Canada into toxic dumps for mines. The National
Chair of the Council of Canadians and former Senior Advisor on Water to the United
Nations was joined by Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation – in
whose traditional Tsilqot’in territory Fish Lake lies – and Greenpeace co-founder
Rex Weyler for the insightful talk. Maude and her co-presenters discussed the Fish
Lake proposal, the Harper policy known as Schedule 2 – designed to water down the
Fisheries Act to allow mines to use lakes for tailing ponds – and the critical state
of water in Canada and around the world. A must-see for anyone who cares about
protecting our water. Eight minutes.


Audio: Damien Gillis with John Werring on Turning Fish Lake Into Toxic Tailing Pond


Listen to full 23 min discussion – including turning Fish Lake into a dump for a proposed mine, and larger issues of water quality and aquatic policy in Canada. John Werring is the head salmon biologist for the David Suzuki Foundation.

Listen to 6 min highlight clip.

Story by Rafe Mair: Fish Lake: A battle worth fighting

Fish Lake (Teztan Biny)

Fish Lake: A battle worth fighting


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.

Who cares?

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.

Blue Gold: The Tsilhqot’in Fight for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) from Susan Smitten on Vimeo.


A priceless BC asset threatened by mining


This province is facing the battle of all battles over the using of Fish Lake and over Enbridge’s proposed Gateway pipeline, which would carry oil from the oil sands to the B.C. coast for export by tanker to Asian markets. I want to deal with Fish Lake in this column but will deal with the pipeline and tanker traffic in future columns.

Taseko Mines Ltd proposes a mine which would completely destroy Fish Lake. The plan for the mine would create a dam for the waste rock and tailings just above the Lake on Fish Creek. This would basically destroy both and fill the area with toxic waste. Because of the proximity to Taseko River, a major salmon bearing river, a leak of this toxic waste deposit would also affect fish not only in the local area but on a much bigger scale.

Fish Lake is near Ts’il?os Provincial Park, and falls within the traditional territory of the Tsilhqot’in Nation (Nemiah Band). The lake contains an estimated 85,000 rainbow trout, of which around 4,500-5,000 are caught annually.

Taseko’s plans are much assisted by a section of “tailing impoundment areas”. Taseko, bless their little hearts, proposes to build another lake to take the place of Fish Lake – all they ask is that we accept that they can make lakes equal to those made by the Creator or, for the godless, Mother Nature.

Chief Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet’in First Nation on behalf of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, has filed a writ in B.C. Supreme Court seeking a declaration of an Aboriginal right to fish in Fish Lake, which is in the heart of Tsilhqot’in territory. For the Tsilhqot’in, the lake is sacred and its destruction unthinkable.

Taseko, of course, has a study to back their case. This report is by The Centre for Spatial Economics which by its mission statement “monitors and forecasts economic and demographic change throughout Canada at virtually all levels of geography.The Centre also prepares customized studies on the economic, industrial and community impacts of various fiscal and other policy changes, and develops customized impact and projection models for in-house client use. Our clients include government departments, crown corporations, manufacturers, retailers and real estate developers. (emphasis added)

Needless to say the report doesn’t concern itself about the “community impacts” on First Nations nor, looking at their clients, is impartiality their strong suit..

The question is not whether First Nations have the right to be consulted – that’s the law of Canada. The more interesting question is: does mere consultation itself become a license to proceed or do First Nations have the right to say “no”.

My instinct, gut feeling of a long retired lawyer, is that Taseko is going to get second prize and that, in any event, the cases will not be heard in the Supreme Court of Canada – which is where they will likely end up – for years. I wouldn’t be buying Taseko shares for short term profits.

I believe that there’s a need for British Columbians to cast aside hypocrisy and decide this: does economic development trump the environment? Is it a matter of how much a company can make – if it reaches a certain figure, the environment be damned?

Why do I talk about hypocrisy?

Because it underscores the issue.

Let me make three proposals – log Stanley Park, put apartment development on Little Mountain (Queen Elizabeth Park), and develop the hell out of Burns Bog with industrial parks, high density residence and private homes. Surely we must be prepared to make the same sacrifices the Tsilhqot’in Nation are asked to make and evaluate these places as economic developments.

In Stanley Park there will be the tree values of course and the employment provided loggers would no doubt last for several years. Then you have the prospect of huge land development. Not only is the area great for apartments think of the skyscrapers it would contain! And we could create a “virtual” park by insisting that all buildings have with trees painted on the exterior.

Little Mountain is probably the developer’s dream come true! Think of the views especially on the north, south and west faces! The taxes would be enormous!

Who wants a bog anyway? Aren’t they, by definition, pretty cruddy places? Merriam-Webster defines a bog as : wet spongy ground; especially : a poorly drained usually acid area rich in accumulated plant material, frequently surrounding a body of open water, and having a characteristic flora (as of sedges, heaths, and sphagnum). Leaving aside what sphagnum might be, surely, just like Fish Lake, Burns Bog is much more important for commercial purposes than just sitting there.

Is a lake with 85,000 fish in it or a bird sanctuary with nesting for migratory birds going to be permitted to stop progress, for God’s sake?

Let’s not forget Beacon Hill Park in Victoria – imagine the riches that would flow from developing that!

The reality is that because citizens in the Lower Mainland love Stanley Park, Queen Elizabeth Park and Burns Bog they will fight development nigh unto death which leads to one conclusion – citizens of Greater Vancouver are more important than the Tsilhqot’in Nation. The logical and not far off assumption from that, is that development trumps nature any time a developer can show that his projects will bring big bucks to the nearest town – unless, of course, it’s Vancouver or Victoria.

The argument by the estimable groups that support Stanley Park, Beacon Hill Park and the Burns Bog is that some things transcend economics and the making of profits and thus must be preserved for their social values. And, damn it, they are right!

If copper and gold was found in any of the parks I have mentioned or in Burns Bog, would the citizens let the miners in? Fat chance!

The Tsilhqot’in Nation feel about Fish Lake and surroundings as we in Vancouver Victoria feel about our natural treasures with this difference – Fish Lake is not just a park or a natural preserve to the Tsilhqot’in Nation, it’s part of their history, culture and a source of their food.

If we can’t respect their rights how can we dare stand up for ours?

Blue Gold: The Tsilhqot’in Fight for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) from Susan Smitten on Vimeo.