The Tahltan Central Council has today (June 26, 2014) announced its intention to prepare an Aboriginal title and rights claim against the Province of British Columbia and Fortune Minerals Ltd for the controversial Arctos Anthracite Coal project proposed for Mt. Klappan in the Klappan area of Tahltan territory.
The announcement comes following the Supreme Court of Canada’s landmark decision in the Tsilqhot’in Nation’s Aboriginal title case, which is a major victory for Aboriginal peoples of B.C.
Speaking about the announcement, Tahltan Central Council president Annita McPhee said: “Today is a proud day for the Tsilqhot’in Nation and all First Nations of BC. They have fought a long, hard battle to have their Aboriginal title upheld by the highest Court in the land. This historic ruling re-affirms what the Tahltan people have been saying for over a hundred years – this is our territory, and we have never surrendered our title. The Province and Canada will now have to respect that title and stop unilaterally making decisions without our consent.”
The TCC has retained Joseph Arvay, Q.C. of Farris & Co. to lead the litigation case against the Arctos project. He is one of Canada’s leading constitutional lawyers, and worked with the Tsilqhot’in during their aboriginal title trial. He also appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada for intervenors on the appeal.
“We are thrilled to have Joe on this case,” said Ms. McPhee. “He is one of B.C.’s best lawyers, and we look forward to working with him to protect this important area from Fortune’s open-pit coal mine. We do not want to go to court, but so far the Province and Fortune have refused to listen to us, and court may be our only option.
“Today’s decision makes it clear that B.C. cannot simply push ahead without our consent, and we intend to fight them every step of the way if they persist.”
The Arctos Anthracite Coal project is located in a critically important area that requires long-term management and protection to preserve cultural and ecological values for the Tahltan people. Mount Klappan, which is part of an area known as Sacred Headwaters, is a traditional hunting ground and has significant cultural value. It also feeds three of the region’s major salmon-bearing rivers – the Skeena, Stikine and Nass. The Tahltan people are united in opposing an open pit coal mine in the area.