Vancouver (Coast Salish Territory) In a twist on the ages-old story of First Nations’ lands being staked against their will and without their knowledge under pro-mining provincial laws and regulations, a group of First Nations women has now staked a claim on land owned by the minister responsible for overseeing this unfair and archaic system.
“We wanted to show how ridiculously easy it is to stake a claim on someone’s land. This should give politicians and all British Columbians an idea of how unfair the process is,” says Bev Sellars, chair of BC’s First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining (FNWARM).
FNWARM chose the Association for Mineral Exploration British Columbia (AME BC)’s Roundup week in Vancouver to stake the claim because it wants all politicians and anyone else dealing with mining companies to realize how the online staking laws can directly affect people. “If you thought it was something that only First Nations had to worry about, think again,” said Ms. Sellars, who is also the author of best-selling books on the residential school experience and on First Nations rights.
How easy was it to stake this claim? Ms. Sellars spent a few minutes at a BC government services centre to obtain a Free Miner’s Certificate for $25. Proof of identity was the only other requirement. Ms. Sellars then went on line and staked a claim – naming it FNWARM – for a fee of $104.89.
“Anyone can do it in just a few minutes – and they do not even need to ask for permission or even inform those persons whose land they are staking,” said Ms. Sellars. ““We think this is wrong, and we hope that Mr. Bennett might now be inclined to agree with us."
AME BC has become increasingly active in seeking to preserve BC’s free entry claims staking regime, and in opposing efforts to reform it, yet it is this system that is at the root of confrontations and Title and rights issues with First Nations, and of bad mining projects being proposed and permitted in BC since colonization, said Ms. Sellars. It also can take much of the blame for the fact that thousands of abandoned mines litter BC, many of them still spewing toxic effects onto the land and into the water.
“We will have a lot more to say on this issue and related mining concerns in the coming months, but for now, we hope our staking this claim will get politicians and the public thinking,” Ms. Sellars said.
FNWARM has also revived a 2010 spoof ad to Roundup attendees. It is running today and tomorrow in the Vancouver Sun and Vancouver Province. It reads:
At the 2010 Vancouver Roundup, an ad was placed in this paper to highlight the unacceptable state of BC mining. Despite some improvements in attitudes and fine words, Mount Polley and other mining messes show things have not changed that much. So we have a seven-year itch to repeat our original ad:
"Attention BC AME Roundup attendees - are you a Prince Charming? First Nations women seek sensitive mining companies for meaningful long-term relationships. Must be good listeners, willing to share decision-making, and environmentally, socially and culturally aware. Must clean up after themselves. Money-grubbing gold-diggers need not apply: Contact First Nations Women Advocating Responsible Mining. [email protected]”