Open Letter: Objection to Comments by Minister of State for Mining

October 28, 2010

Premier Gordon Campbell
PO BOX 9041 STN PROV GOVT
Victoria BC V8W9E1
By post and facsimile: (250) 387-0087

Open Letter: Objection to Comments by Minister of State for Mining

Dear Premier Campbell,

We are writing to strongly object to the unwarranted and insulting comments by the BC Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes on multiple occasions, which have only served to reiterate and promote racist stereotypes about First Nations culture. By Resolution 2010-40, the Union of BC Chiefs-in-Assembly call upon you to accept the resignation of Junior Minister Hawes.

The Takla Lake First Nation, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and others support the independent report released by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic titled "Bearing the Burden: The Effects of Mining on First Nations in British Columbia." Rather than address the serious recommendations made in the report, Junior Minister Hawes called the report “hogwash” and “completely flawed” and suggested Harvard “look in its own backyard or concentrate on places with more egregious offences against indigenous people.” Minister Hawes’ comments were shockingly offensive, not supported and clearly historically inaccurate, given the substantial hardship that Indigenous peoples have endured due to federal and provincial legislation and policy.

We were absolutely appalled that Junior Minister Hawes has also gone on record saying “some First nations reject mining for a more traditional lifestyle- those ways are linked to lower birth weights, higher birth rate deaths and lower life spans. Improving these outcomes requires sharing the wealth and jobs that come from mining.” We understand he refused to apologize for these unsupported and ignorant comments.

Junior Minister Hawes has boldly stated support for Taseko Mine’s proposed Prosperity Mine and extremely controversial efforts to replace the Xeni Gwet’in and the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) and surrounding area with a massive open pit mine and tailings pond, and detrimentally impact nearby Esketemc territory as well. He has publicly criticized the Tsilhqot’in, who he said are “putting a lake before their kids.” Again, this comment is insulting, unwarranted, inaccurate, and fails to consider listening to what First Nations want.

In 2005, you and the Province of BC committed to a government-to-government New Relationship with First Nations in BC based on respect, recognition, and accommodation of Aboriginal Title and Rights. In the spirit of the New Relationship, we would like to meet with you in order to discuss the seriousness of Minister Hawes’ comments and review the absolute need for mining reform in British Columbia beginning with a real review of the Harvard study recommendations.

On behalf of the UNION OF BC INDIAN CHIEFS

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip
President

Chief William Charlie
Vice-President

Chief Bob Chamberlin
Secretary-Treasurer

CC:
Minister of State for Mining Randy Hawes
First Nations Summit Task Group
BC Assembly of First Nations Regional Chief Wilson-Raybould
Takla Lake First Nation
UBCIC Chiefs Council

PDF Copy: http://www.ubcic.bc.ca/files/PDF/2010Oct28_letterPremier_HawesComments.pdf

UBCIC is a NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.