B.C. Indigenous group touring to advocate responsible mining, big energy projects

A group of Indigenous women is headed to Washington DC next week to elevate the importance of free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous people in big energy and industry projects.

The tour emphasizes the importance of meaningful conversation, consultation and consent with First Nations

Jacinda Mack has been touring communities in B.C. to promote responsible mining practices through the Stand For Water project. She'll be going to Washington D.C. next month to talk about consent and consultation with First Nations for big energy and mining projects. (First Nation Women Advocating Responsible Mining/Facebook)

A group of Indigenous women is headed to Washington DC next week to elevate the importance of free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous people in big energy and industry projects.

Jacinda Mack, manager of First nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining, has been touring with the Stand For Water project to raise awareness about the threats mining operations and big energy projects pose to waterways throughout the province and surrounding areas.

Just last month, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the Trans Mountain pipeline project approval, in part because Canada failed to adequately consult Indigenous peoples.

"With each new project, there has to be an approach for a relationship first … I think the whole problem is companies and the government are constantly trying to consent without even having a relationship," she told The Early Edition's Stephen Quinn.

"There needs to be communication and understanding. There needs to be a common space where you can speak to each other."

Improving consultation

The word "consultation" has become, not just a buzzword, but a keyword in B.C. politics, however,  Mack said dialogue with the government was usually one-sided and served as notification of a project rather than a co-operative conversation.

"Consent is like any other relationship you would have where you're having a fully informed discussion and consent by all of the parties involved. It's not just one using power over another," Mack said.

She says she has noticed a shift in the past few years though, in how companies approach and appreciate the feedback from First Nations.

The proposal for Ajax open-pit copper and gold mine in March 2017 was turned down in Kamloops by the Stk'emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation, after the band extensively researched the effects of the project far beyond provincial requirements, Mack said.

According to the company's website, the Ajax Project is the first in B.C.'s history that was required to prepare a First Nations consultation plan, as part of its environmental assessment process.

"I think the companies, especially, are becoming more aware that their bottom line is being affected and this is something that they can't avoid or dismiss as easily as they could in the past."

Banding together

Tribes surrounding B.C. in Alaska, Montana and Washington state are all coming together to make sure these big corporations and government projects don't move forward unchecked, said Mack.

"Indigenous people are working together more and more ... Basically every state that surrounds British Columbia has a problem with they way B.C. handles environmental assessments (and) energy projects."

She said the Indigenous perspective looks beyond "the next quarter, or the next year" and takes into consideration the long-term intergenerational effects big projects can have on communities and the environment.

"It's a complex issue, and we have to take the time to give it the real care and attention that it needs."

"We have to be thinking long term and that's where we're having our conflicts right now."

With files from The Early Edition

To hear the full interview listen to media below:

A group of Indigenous women is headed to Washington DC next week to elevate the importance of free, prior and informed consent from Indigenous people in big energy and industry projects. 9:16

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