Sacred Headwaters dispute pointing towards courts
What promised to be negotiation that would see the Klappan Valley, popularly known as the Sacred Headwaters, protected from mining and other developments, appears to be in limbo as the Tahltan Central Council has threatened to take the provincial government to court over control of these traditional lands.
“They haven't listened to us to date, that's why we are preparing to go to court,” said Tahltan Central Council President Annita McPhee last week.
Last year the province and the Tahltan agreed to take part in what was called the “Klappan Strategic Initiative” with the latter hoping the area would be saved from plans by Fortune Minerals of Ontario to build a large metallurgical coal mine there.
The Tahltan use the Klappan for hunting, education and spiritual practices and have blockaded the area off and on over the years to prevent Fortune from gaining access.
The talks were also seen at the time as the follow-up to promises made by Premier Christy Clark prior to the 2013 provincial election to create a land use strategy for the hotly contested lands.
But, according to McPhee, the strategic initiative lead to a technical report but not a resolution.
And no agreement was reached after the March deadline for the parties involved including the Tahltan Central Council and senior representatives from various provincial government ministries, to submit recommendations, although the province says “productive discussions” were continuing.
According to McPhee, the government wouldn't fully accept the Tahltan goal of protecting the Klappan Valley from development.
McPhee said the Tahltan case is strengthened by last week's Supreme Court of Canada decision which gave the Tsilqhot'in Nation extensive land rights on territory west of Williams Lake.