Williams Lake Tribune

The Mount Polley Mine tailings impoundment breach will be discussed with local stakeholders including First Nations, local government leaders and community groups with a United Nations working group coming to Williams Lake on Sunday, May 28. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo.

A United Nations Working Group (UNWG) is stopping in Williams Lake Sunday, May 28 to discuss the 2014 Mount Polley Mine breach with First Nations, local government officials and community groups.

Undertaking an official visit to Canada, May 23 to June 1, at the invitation of the federal government, the working group which focuses on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises, will also visit Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

The stop in Williams Lake is the result of efforts by Amnesty International Canada, said Tara Scurr, business and human rights campaigner.

“We were notified that the working group was coming to Canada so we sent a letter supporting their visit and outlined the Mount Polley breach and asked if they would be interested in coming to Williams Lake and meeting with rights holders, government and industry to learn more about it,” Scurr told the Tribune.

Before Amnesty sent out the letter, however, it surveyed a number of different First Nations and community groups in Williams Lake to see if there would be support for hosting a UN meeting.

“People said ‘yes, please go ahead and invite them,’ so it wasn’t without some preparatory work.”

Agreeing to come to Williams Lake, the UN working group scheduled the Sunday, May 28 stop in the lakecity for five hours.

Guests that are confirmed to attend are coming from Tsilhqot’in and Secwepemc territories, different Williams Lake and Quesnel area community groups and from Kamloops.

“They will also have a chance to meet with city council and the Cariboo Regional District,” Scurr added.

Sunday’s session will be divided into three parts.

The first part will look at the human rights impact and impact on water and the environment from the breach.

Secondly it will explore water and resource impacts in rural B.C. with accounts from a rural nurse and band councillor speaking about work camps and Indigenous peoples and impacts on women and girls.

The third aspect will be to look at governance and regulatory issues and how well the province is upholding Canada’s human rights obligations in terms of corporate activities and Indigenous rights.

“Different communities are slated to speak to those specific issues,” Scurr said, noting the meeting will be held at the Gathering Place at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus. “Only about 20 people can be in there at one time and the presentations will be five to ten minutes and at the end of each session the working group will do a question and answer segment with the presenters.”

After meeting in Williams Lake the group will fly to Vancouver and do a similar meeting there.

“They will also meet with industry and the province so we’ve been trying to help them get a meeting with Imperial Metals and Mount Polley in Vancouver,” Scurr said. “The meeting in Williams Lake will really help inform their questions for meeting with government.”

At the very end of the trip the working group will issue a short news release on June 1 followed up with a more in-depth report to the federal government in March.