VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - June 24, 2010) - Randy Hawes, BC's Minister of State for Mining, is under fire for recent remarks on mining, human rights, and the traditional ways of First Nations.
On June 7, the Harvard Law School issued a scathing report on the unfair burden that mining in BC is placing on First Nations. Hawes dismissed the report, suggesting that the traditional lifestyle of indigenous peoples is to blame for the social challenges First Nations face.
"I'm sickened," said Chief Roland Willson of West Moberly First Nations. "It's very disappointing to hear a politician in our day and age espouse such ignorance towards our cultural way of life," Willson said.
What disturbs Chief Willson the most, however, is the discriminatory attitude that underscores the comment. "Canada has laws in place that protect everyone from the evil of discrimination by the government. Minister Hawes should be promoting human dignity, not fueling stereotypes that marginalize and devalue our cultures," said Willson.
"The Harvard study is not flawed as Minister Hawes would have you believe. If anything, it's the tip of the iceberg. We have pictures of mining companies using a bulldozer to plough through a fish-bearing stream, coal draining into sensitive wetlands, and illegal clear-cuts. Making matters worse is that BC did not fine those companies one single dollar for breaking provincial and federal laws," Willson said.
Further, Chief Willson points to the recent BC Cabinet decision to approve what he calls, "a plan designed to fail" the last 11 caribou of the Burnt Pine herd. "BC and industry-lobbyists are trying to convince the public that it's a good plan. But that's simply untrue. Even the government's own scientists have said the plan is 'technically impossible'. The plan won't protect the herd from the brink of extinction, let alone increase its numbers. It calls for the extermination of wolves and the destruction of critical habitat. That's not sustainable by any means and it certainly isn't responsible," Willson said.
Lastly, says Chief Willson, "I want to make it very clear that my community fully supports and sincerely respects Takla First Nation for their leadership in bringing to light the true nature of mining and its negative effects on northern First Nation communities. BC needs to work with First Nations, not bully and ridicule communities for offering their views."