Opinion

Embattled Taskeo Mine Permits Show Why B.C. Needs an Environmental Assessment Overhaul

Fish Lake near the proposed New Prosperity Mine. Photo by Garth Lenz

By Gavin Smith, staff lawyer at West Coast Environmental Law Association. This piece first appeared in the Vancouver Sun.

B.C.’s new government is already seeing proof that it made the right move when it committed to reform environmental assessment and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Taseko Mines’ New Prosperity mine proposal, back in the spotlight again for another round of litigation, is a poster child for the failings of B.C.’s environmental assessment regime — and the need for change.

The Tsilhqot’in National Government is currently seeking an injunction to prevent Taseko from digging test pits and conducting geotechnical drilling under provincial approvals granted in the last days of the outgoing government.

The proposed mine would be located within an area of Tsilhqot’in territory that includes Teztan Biny (Fish Lake). The Supreme Court of Canada has recognized constitutionally protected Tsilhqot’in hunting and trapping rights in the area. The region is also near to, but outside, the lands in which the Court recognized Tsilhqot’in aboriginal title.

Eclipse of Reason: Why Do People Disbelieve Scientists?

Eclipse glasses

By Bryan Gaensler

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that on Aug. 21, we’re in for a special cosmic treat: the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

The moon’s shadow will track a 4,000-kilometre course across the continental United States from coast to coast, beginning with Depoe Bay, Ore., and end after 93 minutes in McClellanville, S.C.. As a result, tens of millions of Americans will be treated to that rarest of natural wonders: a total eclipse of the sun.

When B.C.’s Wildfires Are Over, What Comes Next?

BC Wildfire 2015

British Columbians have been suffering through some of the worst wildfires in memory. These latest fires are turning out to be even more devastating than the horrible 2003 Kelowna fires that saw more than 27,000 residents displaced and the loss of 239 homes in B.C.’s lake country.

It’s hard to overstate the impacts of this latest wildfire disaster: as of last week, more than 45,000 people had been displaced or evacuated. While some of them have been able to return home, they’ll be returning to the tragic sight of burned down homes and a whopping 4,000-plus square kilometers of burned forest. The wildfires this summer have been so severe that the province declared a state of emergency for the first time since the Kelowna fires.

Why B.C. Needs a Corruption Inquiry

Christy Clark and Petronas CEO Tan Sri Dato

This is a guest post by Lisa Sammartino, the democracy campaigner for B.C.'s largest democracy group Dogwood. It originally ran on The Tyee.

Christy Clark rounded out her final days in office with a parting gift — not to British Columbians but to a loyal BC Liberal donor, Taseko Mines. The company donated more than $130,000 to the BC Liberals, and now they’ve scooped up Clark’s prize.

While members of the Tsilhqot'in First Nation were being chased from their homes by an aggressive wildfire, Clark’s outgoing government approved exploratory permits for the company to dig up their traditional, and constitutionally protected, lands — an area so culturally and environmentally important that Harper’s Conservatives rejected federal permits twice.

But then again, the federal Conservative party can’t accept corporate donations. Over here in the “Wild West,” Clark’s BC Liberals can, and did.

Bigger, Hotter, Faster: Canada’s Wildfires are Changing and We’re Not Ready

BC Wildfires by MCpl Gabrielle DesRochers, Canadian Forces Combat Camera

By Ed Struzik for The Tyee.

While doing research for a book I was writing on wildfire, I posed two questions to a number of experts: “Do you think there will be another Fort McMurray-like fire in the future? If so, where do you think it will happen?”

Everyone agreed on the first question. Fort McMurray was not an anomaly. It will happen again, sooner rather than later, and likely with deadly consequences.

Rallying Cry: Youth Must Stand Up to Defend Democracy

Enbridge Rally Vancouver Zack Embree

Henry Giroux, McMaster University via The Conversation Canada.

According to famed anthropologist Arjun Appadurai, the central question of our times is whether we’re witnessing the worldwide rejection of liberal democracy and its replacement by some sort of populist authoritarianism.

There’s no doubt that democracy is under siege in several countries, including the United States, Turkey, the Philippines, India and Russia. Yet what’s often overlooked in analyses of the state of global democracy is the importance of education. Education is necessary to respond to the formative and often poisonous cultures that have given rise to the right-wing populism that’s feeding authoritarian ideologies across the globe.

Water Usage in B.C.’s Northeast Requires Indigenous Consent

Fracking wastewater B.C. Photo: CCPA

By Grand Chief Stewart Phillip and Ben Parfitt

One of the most important things that all Green and New Democratic Party MLAs agreed to in reaching their historic agreement to cooperate in governing together is their  “foundational” support of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The Declaration is absolutely unambiguous in stating the “urgent need” for governments to respect and promote the inherent rights of Indigenous Peoples to their lands, territories and resources.

Enter the $8.8 billion Site C hydroelectric dam, a project that former premier Christy Clark vowed to push past the point of no return, but that remains years away from construction.

Nature Offers The Best Defense Against Flooding

BC flood

Spring flooding in Canada this year upended lives, inundated city streets and swamped houses, prompting calls for sandbags, seawalls and dikes to save communities.

Ontario and Quebec's April rainfall was double the 30-year average. Thousands of homes in 130 Quebec municipalities stretching from the Ontario border to the Gaspé Peninsula flooded in May. Montreal residents raced to protect their homes and families as three dikes gave way and the city declared a state of emergency. The Ontario government had to boost its resources for an emergency flood response.

In Atlantic Canada, some parts of New Brunswick recorded more than 150 millimetres of rain during a nearly 36-hour, non-stop downpour. In B.C.'s Okanagan, rapidly melting snowpack and swelling creeks caused lake levels to rise to record heights. The City of West Kelowna declared a state of emergency and evacuated homes.

Is Christy Clark Ramping Up for Another B.C. Election?

christy clark bc election

By Matt Price for iPolitics.

Don’t think for a second that it’s Christy Clark’s nature to go quietly into the night. In response, the B.C. NDP and Greens may have no choice other than to forge a pact to work together in a snap election.

During the press conference in which Christy Clark responded to the agreement between the BC NDP and Greens to cooperate in a minority government, TV cameras caught a glimpse of her speaking notes. The biggest word written on the page was “humble”; apparently she was reminding herself to dial down her signature scrappiness and appear gracious.

Clark also went on to say she would not resign, but would respect the process by a drafting a throne speech and holding a confidence vote — and not right away, either, but a few leisurely weeks later. Then, she named a cabinet that included rumoured candidates for the Speaker’s job, thereby taking them out of contention. With a one-vote difference between Clark’s Liberals and the ‘GreeNDP’ alliance, the question of who will put up the traditionally neutral Speaker has emerged as a key one.

Will a Repackaged National Energy Board Be Able to Meet Canada’s 21st Century Challenges?

Idle No More, Zack Embree

By Chris Tollefson, Executive Director Pacific Centre for Environmental Law and Litigation.

Early on in its remarkably candid treatise released today, the Expert Panel tasked with advising the Trudeau government on how to modernize the National Energy Board (NEB) observes that the issue it was asked to grapple with “is much larger than simply the performance of the NEB in and of itself”: read the panel report here.

Indeed.

Since the 2013 Northern Gateway pipeline hearings, our national energy regulator has been buffeted by one controversy after another.  The NEB must bear some of the blame for this.  Its work on the Northern Gateway, Kinder Morgan and Energy East files underscore that its expertise does not lie in the realm of environmental assessment.  But it is also a victim of history — an institution conceived and born in an era (almost 60 years ago) long before Indigenous rights, climate change and decarbonization had political, let alone legal, salience.

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