Thursday, May 13, 2010

a message from Chief Arvol Looking Horse of the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Nation of the Sioux

A letter from Chief Arvol Looking Horse
A Great Urgency

To All World Religious and Spiritual Leaders

My Relatives,

Time has come to speak to the hearts of our Nations and their Leaders. I ask you this from the bottom of my heart, to come together from the Spirit of your Nations in prayer.

We, from the heart of Turtle Island, have a great message for the World; we are guided to speak from all the White Animals showing their sacred color, which have been signs for us to pray for the sacred life of all things. As I am sending this message to you, many Animal Nations are being threatened, those that swim, those that crawl, those that fly, and the plant Nations, eventually all will be affect from the oil disaster in the Gulf.

The dangers we are faced with at this time are not of spirit. The catastrophe that has happened with the oil spill which looks like the bleeding of Grandmother Earth, is made by human mistakes, mistakes that we cannot afford to continue to make.

I asked, as Spiritual Leaders, that we join together, united in prayer with the whole of our Global Communities. My concern is these serious issues will continue to worsen, as a domino effect that our Ancestors have warned us of in their Prophecies.

I know in my heart there are millions of people that feel our united prayers for the sake of our Grandmother Earth are long overdue. I believe we as Spiritual people must gather ourselves and focus our thoughts and prayers to allow the healing of the many wounds that have been inflicted on the Earth. As we honor the Cycle of Life, let us call for Prayer circles globally to assist in healing Grandmother Earth (our Unc'I Maka).

We ask for prayers that the oil spill, this bleeding, will stop. That the winds stay calm to assist in the work. Pray for the people to be guided in repairing this mistake, and that we may also seek to live in harmony, as we make the choice to change the destructive path we are on.

As we pray, we will fully understand that we are all connected. And that what we create can have lasting effects on all life.

So let us unite spiritually, All Nations, All Faiths, One Prayer. Along with this immediate effort, I also ask to please remember June 21st, World Peace and Prayer Day/Honoring Sacred Sites day. Whether it is a natural site, a temple, a church, a synagogue or just your own sacred space, let us make a prayer for all life, for good decision making by our Nations, for our children's future and well-being, and the generations to come.

Onipikte (that we shall live),

Chief Arvol Looking Horse
19th generation Keeper of the Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe

Saturday, March 6, 2010

from northern BC to Ethiopia - women's silenced voices. Event for International Women's Day

“Women’s Silenced Voices:
The Issue of Femicide from Ethiopia to the Highway of Tears”

Free Public Lecture

Tuesday March 9, 2010
Room 7 – 212

at the University of Northern British Columbia

Ms. Semhal Getachew will talk about the issue of femicide in Ethiopia and relate it to a discussion with Mavis Erickson about the the murder and disappearance of women on the Highway of Tears in Northern British Columbia.

Ms. Semhal Getachew is a board member for the Ethiopian Women’s Health Association and is a human rights lawyer and activist.

The event is held as part of the International Women’s day events planned for Prince George.

For more information please contact:


Friday, February 26, 2010

some thoughts about the mega-mine trend in northern & central BC

I am bothered by current BC & federal government policies aimed at attracting & supporting the establishment of various mega-mine projects throughout northern & central BC. Now first I want to say: I do not have a problem with small-scale prospecting & smaller (especially community-run) mining projects -- provided they do not contaminate local watersheds & are done respectfully (to local environment).

There are a number of mining projects that greatly concern me, but 2 that spring directly to mind are Mount Milligan northwest of Prince George (I have previously blogged about this mine & the process leading up to its "approval" by provincial & federal government). The other is the proposed Prosperity Mine west of Williams Lake that would see Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) drained to become a tailings impoundment area for a gold mine(pursuant to the federal Metal Mining Effluent Regulation). It is an astoundingly breath-taking lake held sacred by the local Tsilhqot'in people.

"It is not possible for us to agree to the destruction of the land that sustains us." ~ Chief Marilyn Baptiste, Xeni Gwet'in First Nation.

A video definitely worth watching about this proposed mine & the local First Nations people's perspective is found at (a big thank you to Susan Smitten).

I find my values & perspective are increasingly becoming aligned with the First Nations elders who hold strong connection to the land & the traditional ways of the Aboriginal people. I feel as though I had blinders on during much of my childhood & young adulthood when I was oblivious to or accepted as 'normal' (just the way it was. . . ) many of the industrial/ resource extraction/ exploitation ways in northern BC. After all I lived in a sawmill town. My dad worked in a mine for part of my childhood. . . and at a sawmill. . . as I get older and watch the precious sacred northern BC landscape come under threat from various directions & sources, I find myself becoming more of an ally of First Nations people, those who are connected with their traditional ways of life.

as a child these industrial jobs my dad had put food on our table. . . but now I wonder, at what greater cost do some of these mega-industrial projects proceed?

Honestly these days, the First Nations elders (in contact with their people's traditional ways) are some of the few people who make any sense anymore. Some of the elders in the Teztan Biny video (referenced above) speak the most profound & simple wisdom. . .

They speak the truth about our earth & how we are all inter-connected and dependent on it.

Is there a way for northerners to make a living while still safeguarding the environment? I think it is becoming increasingly imperative as well-being of the natural environment (and our health) begins to unravel around us. . .

I believe we need to seriously look at whether the Metal Mining Effluent Regulation (enabled pursuant to section 35(2) of the federal Fisheries Act) should even exist. . . I believe that there is something morally flawed about this law -- to allow fishbearing lakes & streams to be redefined as tailings impoundment areas because a handful of humans decide it is the right thing to do seems absolutely WRONG WRONG WRONG.

Who are we to be able redefine natural systems that support the web of life!?

Here is an excerpt from the Red Chris Mine Supreme Court of Canada decision. One thing I really don't get about this case is why this mine is permitted to go ahead by the Court - I mean, it is akin to a case being sent back to trial -- if it was an illegal trial/ process, then it was illegal was it not? But this IS an important decision for the future of mining processes & decisions in BC.

Mining Watch Canada v. Canada (Fisheries and Oceans), 2010 SCC 2

Reasons for Judgment:

Rothstein J. (Binnie, LeBel, Fish, Abella, Charron and Cromwell JJ. concurring)

on appeal from the federal court of appeal

In order to develop a copper and gold open pit mining and milling operation in British Columbia, a mining company submitted a project description to the BC Environmental Assessment Office. Public comment was sought and the Office subsequently determined that the project was not likely to cause significant adverse, environmental, heritage, social, economic or health effects and issued a provincial environmental assessment certificate. The company also submitted to the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans applications for dams required to create a tailings impoundment area. Initially, the Department stated that a comprehensive study was required because the project fell within the provisions of the Comprehensive Study List Regulations (“CSL”) promulgated under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (“CEAA”). It subsequently scoped the project as to exclude the mine and mill and, given this, concluded that a comprehensive study was no longer necessary and that the assessment would proceed by way of screening. Additional public comment was not sought and the screening instead relied on information collected through the cooperative federal/provincial environmental assessment process. The federal screening report concluded that the project was not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects and the responsible authority made the decision to allow the project to proceed. MiningWatch filed an application for judicial review of the decision to conduct a screening rather than a comprehensive study. The Federal Court allowed the application, concluding that the responsible authority had breached its duty under the CEAA by scoping the environmental assessment so that it only required a screening. The court quashed the decision to issue permits and approvals and prohibited further action by the responsible authority until it had conducted public consultation and completed a comprehensive study pursuant to s. 21 of the CEAA. The Federal Court of Appeal set aside the decision.

Held: The appeal should be allowed.

The CEAA and regulations require that the environmental assessment track be determined according to the project as proposed; it is generally not open to a responsible authority to change that level. An interpretation which provides that the word “project” in s. 21 of the CEAA means “project as proposed” by the proponent, rather than “project as scoped” by the responsible authority, is consistent with the statutory definition of that word in s. 2 of the CEAA, the language of the relevant regulations, and with Parliament’s intent as found in the respective roles of the responsible authority and the Minister in conducting environmental assessments under the CEAA. Where, as here, a project as proposed is listed on the CSL, the requirements in s. 21 are mandatory.

Tracking and scoping are distinct steps in the CEAA process. While the responsible authority does not have the discretion to determine the assessment track, once the appropriate track is determined, it has the discretion to determine the scope of the project for the purposes of assessment under s. 15(1)(a) of the CEAA. In the event that the project is referred to a mediator or a review panel under s. 21.1(1)(b), the scope of the project is determined by the Minister after consulting with the responsible authority pursuant to s. 15(1)(b). The presumed scope of the project to be assessed is the project as proposed by the proponent but, as an exception to this general proposition, the responsible authority or Minister may enlarge the scope in the circumstances set out in s. 15(2) or (3). The responsible authority or Minister cannot reduce the scope of the project to less than what is proposed by the proponent. For a project subject to a comprehensive study, the responsible authority can, and should, minimize duplication by using the coordination mechanisms provided for in the CEAA. In particular, federal and provincial governments can adopt mutually agreeable terms for coordinating environmental assessments.

In the present case, the federal environmental assessment should have been conducted for the project as proposed by the proponent. Since the proposed project was described in the CSL, the requirements of s. 21 applied. The responsible authority was free to use any and all federal‑provincial coordination tools available, but it was still required to comply with the provisions of the CEAA pertaining to comprehensive studies. By conducting a screening, the responsible authority acted without statutory authority.

In exercising his discretion to grant the relief he did, the trial judge did not take account of a number of relevant and significant considerations and granted broader relief than was appropriate. MiningWatch has no proprietary or pecuniary interest in the outcome of the proceedings and did not participate in the environmental assessment conducted by the provincial authority. No evidence of dissatisfaction with the environmental assessments conducted by the BC Environmental Assessment Office or the responsible authority and no evidence of dissatisfaction with the assessment process from anyone else was brought forward. MiningWatch has brought this judicial review as a test case of the federal government’s obligations under s. 21. They made a strategic decision not to challenge the substantive scoping decision. When all the relevant considerations are taken into account, the appropriate relief is to allow the application for judicial review and declare that the responsible authority erred in failing to conduct a comprehensive study. No further relief is warranted. The focus of MiningWatch’s interest as a public interest litigant is the legal point to which the declaration will respond and there is no justification in requiring the proponent of the project to repeat the environmental assessment process when there was no challenge to the substantive decisions made by the responsible authority.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Crude Facts info session about Enbridge Northern Gateway project in Prince George BC

Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance
E-mail: Blogsite:

For Immediate Release: February 24, 2010

Information session on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project

On March 2nd and 3rd, the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance will be hosting The Crude Facts, two information sessions on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and Tanker Project. Speakers from Friends of Wild Salmon, regional First Nations organizations, UNBC and the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance will speak about the environmental and social risks of this proposed project. “Given the likelihood of oil spills associated with the transportation of bitumen from the tar sands to Asian and American markets, people need to become educated about the potential negative impacts of this project and decide if this type of development will truly benefit northerners” said the event organizer, Sonja Ostertag. The events will take place on March 2nd from 2:30 to 4:30 in Room 6-305 at UNBC and March 3rd from 7:00 to 9:00 at ArtSpace (1685 3rd Ave), Prince George.

Enbridge proposes to construct two parallel pipelines from northern Alberta's tar sands to the port of Kitimat; one pipe will carry crude bitumen, a heavy oil product, to the coast of BC for oil tankers destined to Asian and American oil markets. “I’m concerned about this project because it will accelerate the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands; the proposed pipelines will cut through traditional territories and could lead to cultural destruction in the case of an oil spill” said local UNBC student and member of the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance, Adam Thomas. The second pipe will carry condensate inland; condensate is an acutely toxic light hydrocarbon used to transform the thick tar-like substance extracted from the oil sands into a product suitable for pipeline transport. Both products present a distinct threat to fish, wildlife and humans in proximity to any spills.

‘The Crude Facts’ will highlight the potential negative impacts of this project for northerners and their environment. The alliance will continue to organize events in Prince George in the coming months to help inform the public about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Project. S2S formed a Facebook group ( in the fall of 2009 and the group has attracted more than 600 members to date. Citizens interested in learning more or who would like to join the group can email

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

a flame stronger than the Olympic flame burns in the heart of the First Nations women of the North!

Olympics Aren't the Only Games Being Played for Gold in BC
Investors not being given the facts about mining investment risks

VANCOUVER, Feb. 10 /CNW Telbec/ - As the media spotlight shines on the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics, a government-industry promotion is hiding the risks of investing in BC's mining industry, First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining warned today.

"Crucial facts are being hidden and the global media attention generated by the Olympics is being used to send a false message that BC is a sure gold medal bet for mining investors," said FNWARM member Chief Marilyn Baptise of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation.

"After a 13-year new-mine drought fuelled by major court rulings on First Nations rights in BC, there now appears to be a campaign to pretend the legal duty to consult and accommodate First Nations no longer exists," added Nak'azdli First Nation councillor Anne Sam.

The message is so one-sided that FNWARM members this week filed a BC Press Council complaint against the Vancouver Sun regarding recent articles that omitted known key facts to leave the impression that the provincial government's star mining projects no longer face serious obstacles and will create a huge revenue bonanza.

In fact they face a number of serious obstacles.

FNWARM is a group of First Nations women leaders from northern BC with a shared goal of promoting responsible mining that respects First Nations rights and cultures and the environment. Their goals include reform of the free-entry access system and environmental assessment review processes to reduce areas of conflict and uncertainty.

"We all face serious attempts to force mining projects on us," said former Lake Babine First Nations Chief Betty Patrick. "We want to work with government and companies to find responsible and respectful solutions to mining impasses in BC, but we are repeatedly faced with attempts to bulldozer us into submission."

Soda Creek Chief Bev Sellars said: "We are shocked by the extent of the steps now being taken to push ahead with mine projects on Xeni Gwet'in and Nak'azdli First Nation traditional lands."

The respective projects are Taseko Mines Ltd's Prosperity gold mine and Terrane Metals' proposed low grade gold/copper Mt. Milligan mine - which are being heavily promoted by the provincial government and media as the vanguard of a new BC mining boom.

Both are threatening to start land clearing and road building in a matter of weeks, even though their projects could be halted by reviews or legal challenges that will take months or longer to complete.

FNWARM hopes to balance the mining hype by providing investors with facts that they have a right to know in order to make informed decisions. For example:

- The future cannot be guaranteed for projects that proceed against
First Nations objections on their traditional lands, which cover the
entire province.
- The vast majority of BC First Nations have never signed treaties or
ceded any territory or resources;
- The courts have repeatedly established that - pending resolution of
their title and rights - these First Nations must be consulted and
- Taseko's proposed Prosperity mine - which would turn an important
pristine lake into a toxic tailing pond - still faces a federal
environment review. Its future is also entangled in two major court
cases involving First Nations rights;
- Terrane Metals' proposed Mt. Milligan Mine is still in the courts
defending against legal challenges to its provincial and federal
environmental assessment approvals. A provincial hearing is scheduled
for March. An application for a federal judicial review was filed in
early January - one day before mining giant Goldcorp declined to
partner on the mine;
- Any money spent on premature work on the mines will be at the
companies' own financial risk, and they will be accountable for
environmental destruction should the projects be stopped.

For further information: Media inquiries: Anne Marie Sam - (011) 250-649-8284,

Sunday, January 31, 2010

my cynical poem about the Olympic torch coming through Prince George last Friday : )

Canada is a coke bottle

Canada is a coke bottle,
running down this snowy road with the flame
to the next person waiting in white;
in Vancouver where bulldozers push the snow from
higher mountains wrapped in cloud,
brought down to the level of rain puddles,
meteorologist city-watching from an office window,
the Suzuki foundation warns of
global warming on the slopes of Cypress:
Canada is a coke bottle.

My young son waves the coke flags,
Canada, Coca-Cola,
concentrated in a bottle,
through the inky blackness:

what is it exactly?

Forgotten watersheds, schools,
cancer patients,
the pulp mill shut down for the afternoon
so as not to smell in the national media
when the torch came through,
brightening Ospika temporarily,
the drab street where I run
and nothing ever seems to happen,
but for tarring the potholes;

they are all here this afternoon,
the crowds,
what matters now,
jarring music that drowns everything out,

searching desperately for my friends
to hand out "No Tanker" decals
to paint the loony-loons black
with a slick of oil

the lick of black,
oozes now from us:

Canada is a coke bottle.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

letter to Jim Prentice, Canada Environment Minister from Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance re: Joint Review Panel, Enbridge Northern Gateway

January 26, 2010

The Honourable Jim Prentice
Minister of Environment
Government of Canada
By Email Correspondence to:

Dear Sir:

Re: Enbridge Northern Gateway Project – Final Agreement on Joint Review Process

This letter is to state the opinions of the Sea to Sands Conservation Alliance with regards
to the terms of the Final Agreement on the Joint Review Panel process for the Enbridge
Northern Gateway crude oil/ condensate twin pipelines.
We are a group of concerned citizens based out of Prince George, British Columbia with
support from across western Canada. Prince George is a community that lies in close
proximity to the proposed Enbridge pipelines route, and is inhabited by people that are
closely tied to the surrounding land. We recently formed the Sea to Sands Conservation
Alliance to express our concern for this mega‐project. Interest in our group has been
considerable and our groups already have well over 600 supporters; opposition to this
pipeline project is increasing daily throughout British Columbia. We count ourselves as
part of a broader network of concerned citizens.
Our reasons for opposing the terms of the final agreement on the Joint Review Panel are
as follows:
1. We seriously question whether a three‐member panel comprised of two National
Energy Board members and one Environment Minister appointed member will be
adequate to evaluate this process. This is because of the magnitude of this project,
its broad‐sweeping implications and the number of communities and stakeholders
that will be affected by it.
2. The mandate of the National Energy Board seems to be too narrow to properly allow
panel members to address the variety of issues at stake. Of particular concern is the
panel’s decision to exclude the environmental impacts of the tar sands expansion in
its environmental assessment. This is very disconcerting because the proposed
Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline could result in up to 30 percent increase in oil
sands production. It seems short‐sighted and inappropriate to disregard direct
broader impacts of a project in an assessment.
3. Other pipelines in Canada of a similar magnitude have had more involved and
sophisticated review processes. For example, the Mackenzie gas pipeline joint
review panel terms of reference were drafted in conjunction with First Nations and
were much more comprehensive. The scope of this review included, among other
things, questions about whether the project would contribute to sustainability
within the region.
4. The concerns of the public, submitted during the public consultation process leading
up to finalizing the agreement, have not been adequately addressed in the terms of
this agreement. For instance, many members of the public noted the issue of the
moratorium on oil tanker traffic on this part of the coast. There has been a longstanding
moratorium on oil tanker traffic through the coastal inland waters of
northern British Columbia, initiated in 1972 and confirmed by Natural Resources
Canada in 2003. The terms of the Joint Review Panel do not provide for adequate
dialogue about whether British Columbians want this long‐standing moratorium
against oil tanker traffic lifted.
5. Aboriginal rights are not sufficiently addressed, particularly their right to
consultation confirmed by the Constitution and the common law. Several local First
Nations in our area (Carrier Sekani Tribal Council, Takla First Nation and Nadleh
Whut’en) have already issued media releases in response to the finalization of the
Joint Review Process. These groups state that their Aboriginal rights are being
violated. We fully support the position of First Nations groups from our area
concerning this issue.
6. We are concerned about the potential for lack of administrative fairness on the
panel. We do acknowledge that it is stated in the agreement that the members are
to be “unbiased and free from any conflict of interest in relation to the project”.
However, we remain concerned that in your capacity as Environment Minister, you
are selecting one of the three panel members. Our reason for concern is that you
have been quoted many times as being in support of oil sands production and
increasing markets for same, Mr. Prentice.
Some examples:
• “Prentice defends oilsands following National Geographic article,” retrieved
on January 15, 2010 from‐articles.html.
• “Speaking Points of Jim Prentice” (as Minister of Industry)
retrieved on January 15, 2010 from
• “Prentice won’t rule out oilsands emissions breaks”
retrieved on January 15, 2010 from‐oil‐sands.html.
• “Alberta to US: Use the oil sands or lose them,”
retrieved on January 15, 2010, from
During your previous portfolio as Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development
(May 23, 2006), you are quoted on a federal government website in an address to the
Canadian Energy Pipeline Association in Calgary, Alberta, as follows:
“I understand the enormous potential that oil and gas development will bring to
the country. . . Growing global demand for energy and upward pressure on
prices have made new projects feasible. The Gateway pipeline project is another
In this same address, you emphasized a Conservative government “concerted and
coordinated federal response on major pipeline projects [that] will allow [your
government] to focus multi‐departmental resources on critical impediments that
threaten projects.”
Finally, you also spoke of your mandate at the time offering opportunities to “create
powerful synergies to realize the potential of pipeline development.”
The above quotes retrieved January 15, 2010, from http://www.aincinac.‐eng.asp.
We question whether through your various statements referenced here and elsewhere,
you have expressed support for this pipeline project proceeding?
Our concerns about this review panel are not alleviated by the inclusion of two National
Energy Board members. The vast majority of energy projects reviewed by the National
Energy Board are approved (see for instance “environmentalists say scope of hearings is
too narrow,” Victoria Times Colonist, December 5, 2009, retrieved from on December 5, 2009).
While the National Energy Board certainly has a role to play, we are concerned that they
comprise two thirds of the panel, given the broad scope of the issues at stake relating to
this project.
In closing, the terms set in the Final Agreement on the Joint Review Panel process do
not reflect the concerns of the citizens and First Nations that would be directly impacted
by the Enbridge Northern Gateway project. An impartial review is necessary, which
includes an appropriate scope that allows for the relevant issues to be discussed and
addressed. There have been numerous calls from the public for a comprehensive public
inquiry into this project (several of which were articulated during the public input time
frame leading up to the formulation of this finalized agreement). We would like you to
consider those calls and establish a comprehensive review process that would have the
support of the First Nations and citizens of Canada that you represent.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Nak'azdli going forward to assert their rights

Press Release from Nak'azdli band re: Mount Milligan mine approval
For Immediate Release

January 7, 2010: Nak’azdli will be filing a Notice of Application today with the Federal Court of Canada requesting a judicial review of recent decisions made by the federal Minister of Environment and federal agencies regarding a proposed low grade gold and copper mine at Mt. Milligan/Shus Nadloh, which, is located 90 km north of Fort St. James.
This federal judicial review application follows the filing of a petition on June 24, 2009 in the BC Supreme Court, which is due to go to court in the spring. “The petition filed by Nak’azdli in the BC Supreme Court and this application filed in Federal Court sends a clear message to Terrane Metals that it does not have its “social licence” to operate in Nak’azdli Territory,” said Chief Fred Sam
“The proposed mine is within Nak’azdli territory and the proposed mine site and surrounding area is clearly utilized by Nak’azdli members, and has been since time immemorial. The manner in which Canada has dealt with Nak’azdli throughout the environmental assessment review process has not upheld the honour of the Crown. They completely ignored impacts of the project on aboriginal rights and title. That is against the law.” stated Chief Fred Sam.
Nak’azdli also refuses to accept the Minister of Environments’ decision that the Mt. Milligan Mine “is not likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.” Chief Fred Sam asks, “who gets to define what is a significant effect? Nak’azdli has not been asked by the federal government what is significant to us.” The proposed mine on Shus Nadloh (Mt. Milligan) will clearly have a major negative impact on the environment.
“Terrane Metals mine plan includes permanently destroying much of King Richard and Alpine Creeks and two open pits and the mine site with a foot print of 367 hectares and a tailings pond with a foot print of 813 hectares, which will eliminate an area of relatively untouched land and water that is three times the size of Stanley Park in Vancouver. It is ridiculous to conclude there will not be significant adverse environmental effects.” Chief Fred Sam said.
“This should be a wakeup call for investors in GoldCorp and all investors in Terrane Metals, the proposed Mt. Milligan project is NOT a done deal and Nak’azdli has been left with no option but to turn to the federal and provincial Courts to protect our territory. Nak’azdli has been ignored by the government of Canada and BC and we will not sit by quietly.” said Chief Sam

Media Contact: Anne Marie Sam - 250-649-8284 or 250-996-7171