KAMLOOPS - Just a few days after the province announced it would continue to fight the land title claim made by local First Nations on Jacko Lake, the chiefs are asking when they will be given jurisdiction over their territory.
Stk’emlupsemc te Secwepemc Nation, a group representing the members of Tk’emlups and Skeetchestn First Nations, declared land title claim on the area known to local First Nations as Pípsell last summer. In September the claim was officially filed with the Supreme Court of B.C.
Last week the province announced it would "vigorously oppose a declaration that has the potential to create uncertainty over the land base and for private property owners across this territory” but would continue to work with First Nations to "ensure they have a meaningful role in land and resource management and that they share the resulting benefits and economic opportunities.”
“When will the Province of B.C. and KGHM recognize SSN ownership and jurisdiction on our territory?” they ask in a media release. “SSN are disappointed in the province’s recent statement that they will vigorously oppose the title claim.”
The property also falls within the site of the proposed Ajax Mine. KGHM Ajax Mining has said it would protect the lake and leave it mostly open to the public. The company has also said it is working with local First Nations about the land title claim and hopes an agreement can be reached.
“The meetings we’ve been having have been very productive… the dialogue has changed over the last few months,” External Affairs Manager Yves Lacasse said this week.
The First Nations group hopes the federal government will help uphold the recent mandate coming out of the Truth and Reconciliation Report, which calls for corporations to commit to meaningful consultation and obtaining the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous peoples before proceeding with economic development projects, the group says.
“It is unfortunate the province has taken this as an opportunity to fear monger and further drive wedges between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal People,” Chief Ron Igance says. “We will steadfastly defend our rights as we have done since the 1800s.”
Chief Fred Seymour agrees and says it’s time the government properly deals with land issues.
“For over 100 years we have heard promises that the land question would be dealt with between our chiefs and the government,” Seymour says. “At some point the government must come to the table with the mandate to properly deal with this issue. It’s their unwillingness that has left us with no recourse but the court system. This is a problem they have created and they are now trying to make us look like villains for holding their feet to the fire.”
KGHM officially filed its environmental application for the project this week and the 180-day review period is underway. A public comment period begins Tuesday, Jan. 26 and runs through April 11. During that time several open houses will be held by the provincial and federal assessment offices as well as the city.
The open-pit copper and gold mine is set to operate just outside of Kamloops, if approved.
For more articles on the proposed mine, click here.
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