An ArmchairMayor.ca editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
THE DECISION by the Tk’emlúps and Skeetchestn Bands, acting together as the Stk’emlúpsemc te Secwépemc Nation (SSN), to formally oppose Ajax could well be the death knell for the project.
The SSN announced Saturday that its independent environmental review leaves it no choice but to reject the open-pit mine for the good of the two communities as well as of Kamloops, based on the cultural importance of the Jacko Lake area it knows as Pipsell.
SSN said it was forced to do its own review due to the inadequacies of the Canadian and B.C. Environmental Assessment processes.
Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Chief Fred Seymour and Terry Denault, Acting Chief of the Skeetchestn Band, were unequivocal in stating united opposition on behalf of their communities.
As Seymour put it, “We say no to this project in order to say yes to the health of our community members and our neighbours in Kamloops and surrounding area.” The Ajax proposal just doesn’t make sense, he said.
Some things, he said, just can’t be monetized.
Denault called it “our duty to our future generations” to hold the provincial and federal governments accountable.” The decision, he said, is for the greater good of all Canadians.
This is not simply a bargaining chip, as some guessed when the SSN first stated concerns about the project many months ago. The two bands say “No,” period.
KGHM had clearly been hoping it could work its way through the SSN’s issues and get to “Yes.” It asked for a pause in the environmental permit application process so it could answer questions that arose about the application, including those from the SSN.
But the SSN has now pre-empted the provincial-federal process. Supporters of the project can’t argue that everyone should “wait for the science” because the science is in, and the SSN has concluded that its own independent review makes it impossible to give assent.
Politically, it’s really bad news for KGHM. Even aside from whatever legal issues might remain with respect to rights and title over Pipsell, the SSN decision gives renewed vigor to other opponents of the mine, and puts the politicians who must give the final yes or no in a tough spot. Going against such a strong verdict from the SSN could be political suicide.
No doubt, the preference might be to ride it out until the election is over, but coming so close to the official start of the campaign makes it virtually impossible to ignore the issue on the hustings. There’s now huge pressure on political hopefuls who have so far sat on the fence to take a stand — and the forces of opposition have more sway than ever before.
Even if the stop or go button isn’t pushed until after the election, there’s major political risk. How can it be argued any longer that this project is good for the community when so many voices say it isn’t?
As the headline on the SSN’s statement on Saturday made it abundantly clear: “SSN says No to KGHM Ajax and Yes to Healthy People and Environment.”
There are many right now cheering that sentiment.