ELECTED just this past summer as president of the Tahltan Central Council, 27-year-old Chad Day has come under heavy criticism for comments made about a Tahltan faction that’s been blocking access to the nearly-completed Red Chris copper mine which is located on Tahltan traditional territory.
Through Facebook, Day referred to the Klabona Keepers as a “handful of Tahltans [who] have turned this entire situation into a circus.”
That prompted members of the Klabona Keepers, which have been mounting the blockade because they’re worried about the mine’s tailings pond design, to separate themselves from the central council.
But now Day, in an interview, says he hopes to salvage a relationship with the group.
“I think people have just misinterpreted what I said and who I was saying it towards,” said Day.
“I guess some people felt that I was somehow insulting our elders and that’s not what I was doing at all, I basically made some comments because I felt there were individuals who were spreading a lot of misinformation and that it was very disrespectful to the Tahltan Nation to be making comments that were not true about our culture and our traditions and our laws.”
The Klabona Keepers have had a history of mounting blockades primarily to block access by resource companies to the Klappan area which holds historical and cultural significance to the Tahltan people.
Their latest blockade, assisted by members of the Secwepemc First Nation from the interior and other environmental activists, went up Sept. 29.
The Secwepemc traditional territory takes in the Mount Polley copper mine, also owned by Imperial, and it was the failure of that mine’s tailings pond in August which then focussed attention on Red Chris.
Day also referred to non-Tahltan people in another social media posting by saying, “I will continue to represent the entire Tahltan Nation which is a lot different than answering to a handful of Tahltans and the non-Tahltan individuals who pay them to blockade and write their press releases. The Tahltan people as a whole are very reasonable and progressive and this internal matter will be dealt with appropriately in time. The Tahltan Nation will continue to move forward in a good way.”
Day said the eventual Tahltan Central Council position regarding the Red Chris mine will be resolved in a vote giving the thumbs up or thumbs down on an agreement currently being negotiated between the council and Imperial Metals.
While the council has signed other agreements, called impact benefit agreements approved through votes, with other resource companies in Tahltan territory, Day said this one will be different because of a court decision this past summer in the Chilcotin which strengthens aboriginal title.
“Normally it would be called an IBA, an impact benefit agreement,” said Day. “But after Chilcotin, the message I am going to be sending to the Tahltan Nation and to the world is that we don’t do impact benefit agreements, we do co-management agreements with industry nowadays.”
Aside from any agreement, the central council is also waiting for the results of an independent assessment of the Red Chris tailings pond. Imperial is paying for the assessment but the council chose who is doing the assessment.
The provincial government, the Tahltan Central Council and Imperial Metals have already agreed that the mine will not open until results of the review of the tailings storage facility provide assurance that it can be operated safely.
As well, Imperial lacks one crucial provincial government permit and that’s to permit it to discharge effluent.
In any event, the mine is still not fully connected to BC Hydro’s Northwest Transmission Line to provide it with the necessary power to run its machinery. Once the review is completed, Day said the central council will hold community information sessions.
“When it’s all said and done, we will get feedback from the nation and eventually put whatever agreement we come up with Imperial Metals to the people and the Tahltan Nation will decide how we move forward,” he said.
“We certainly would be working to oppose them opening that mine without coming to some kind of arrangement with the Tahltan Nation ahead of time,” said Day.
And while the central council continues its negotiations with Imperial and waits for the tailings design review to be completed, a supreme court enforcement order to have the Klabona Keepers blockade taken down was to have come into force yesterday.