The Union of BC Indian Chiefs says the tailings pond breach in the Cariboo is a disaster that could have been prevented.
Grand Chief Stewart Philip says First Nations near Likely and all the way down the Fraser have many questions but few answers.
“Arsenic, mercury, lead, and cadmium and a whole range of toxic and poisonous chemicals and heavy metals has been broadcast down the creek and into the lake. How far down the water system that this will go is unknown at the moment. We are gravely concerned given that First Nations rely on the wild salmon fishery for their winter food supply.”
Philip says concern number one is with the returning sockeye salmon run.
“First Nations are being alerted down the river system and down the Fraser about the potential for contaminated fish. Some First Nations are so gravely concerned they are contemplating going out before there is actual openings in order to get as many fish out of the water before this toxic slurry makes its way down the Fraser River.”
Philip puts the blame for this squarely on the Harper government.
“We are reaping the consequences of an attitude, practice, and a policy from the government of Canada through there omnibus legislation Bills C-38 and 45, which removed fisheries habitat protection from the Fisheries Act.”
He calls the tailings pond breach a catastrophe comparing it to the Exxon Valdez disaster.