The Ktunaxa Nation feels an American company is attempting to circumvent the required consultation on a new mining exploration project.
Ktunaxa Nation Council (KNC) officials said Taranis Resources has filed a petition with the B.C. Supreme Court regarding its Thor Project near Trout Lake, south of Revelstoke, in Ktunaxa homelands.
“Taranis is asking the Court to force the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation (EMLI) to make a quick decision on its August 2022 application for a major exploration program north of Trout Lake, near Revelstoke, in the Ktunaxa Traditional District of miȼ̓qaqas ʔamakʔis (Land of the Chickadee),” said KNC officials. “Taranis is also asking the Court to declare recent public statements by EMLI Minister Josie Osborne committing her Ministry to work with Indigenous Peoples as Aboriginal Titleholders to be ‘contrary to law.'”
Yaqan nuʔkiy (Lower Kootenay Band) and the KNC learned about the proposed exploration project in January.
Since then, KNC officials said extensive reviews identified major concerns, such as impacts to archaeological values, ungulate winter range, old-growth forests and species at risk including mountain caribou, grizzly bear, and whitebark pine.
“There are also significant concerns around water quality and important fish species, including Gerrard rainbow trout, west slope cutthroat trout, bull trout and kokanee,” said KNC official. “Impacts to these important values translate to impacts to legally protected Ktunaxa rights.”
In response, Yaqan nuʔkiy and the KNC Lands and Resources Council sent the provincial government ‘letters of non-support’ for the new exploration permit.
KNC officials said the B.C. government responded, acknowledging their concerns and committing to more consultation.
The court challenge from Taranis was filed just two months later.
“Consultation must include the possibility of denial, or it isn’t meaningful consultation,” said nasuʔkin Jason Louie of Yaqan nuʔkiy. “And ‘no’ is a valid outcome of consultation.”
“It looks like Taranis wants to cut off our voice and ability to represent and protect our Indigenous title and rights,” said Louie. “But the Crown has the duty to consult and, more importantly, the fiduciary duty to protect Aboriginal rights as per Section 35 of the Canadian Constitution. Taranis’ desire to fast-track this project can’t trump our Constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights. We are duty-bound to the Creator to ensure respectful stewardship of our homelands, and this is our focus.”
The KNC said B.C. has committed to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which requires the province to respect the authority and rights of Indigenous governance.
“The best way for British Columbia to ensure Ktunaxa rights are protected is to receive our free prior and informed consent, which in this case, has not been provided,” said Louie.
“We know that Treaty 8 Nations had to fight for years in court to finally force the Province to protect their rights from the cumulative degradation of industrial development; we will not wait until things are so bad we can no longer use our lands. We are standing up now and saying we need time to plan and do things right.”
KNC officials said Yaqan nuʔkiy disagrees that Taranis’ application has been subject to unreasonable delay.
“Ktunaxa have been stewards of our homelands for longer than 10,000 years. Colonization only happened in the last 200 years, but we have already lost so much,” said Louie. “Fourteen months in a permitting process doesn’t seem like a long time, and in this case, matters of how many months isn’t our concern, because we are on the record as unsupportive.”
Louie emphasized the importance of land conservation.
“We are not an anti-mining Nation, but some areas should remain undeveloped or require time to heal. Proponents are guests within our homelands – those who respect us, who are willing to accept that not all projects are meant to be developed, and who are willing to work with us and obtain our free, prior and informed consent, are the ones we would classify as ‘good guests,’ who we are willing to host. Proponents who do not meet these expectations will have challenges.”
KNC officials said they and Yaqan nuʔkiy leadership will keep an eye on any developments regarding the court filing.
“Even if the Court issued the declaration the proponent wants, it would still not create a necessity for an eventual permitting decision to be in favour of exploration or development,” said Louie. “The Province must still address and protect our title and rights.”