Wade Davis supports Greens; Greens support his effort to protect the Sacred Headwaters

Elizabeth May

On Saturday night in Vancouver, the Green Party received an overwhelming and ringing endorsement from anthropologist Wade Davis. In 2009, Wade Davis delivered the prestigious Massey lectures. Wade's work for decades has focused on the threats to endangered peoples -- the indigenous peoples of Sarawak and the Amazon. On Saturday, he shared, in an impassioned talk, how he now feels he is one of those endangered peoples. Imperial Metals is planning a huge copper and gold mine in his beloved Stikine Valley, right near his home.

I have blogged before about the Red Chris mine, but for its impact on environmental law -- not for the impact on the land itself. Mining Watch Canada, represented by Eco-justice, took the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada. A giant mine like Red Chris should have had a comprehensive study review, but the Department of Fisheries and Oceans ducked the review by describing the project as only the infrastructure, not the mine itself. The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that the Harper government could not do what they did -- examine the impact of the mine by narrowing the impacts and ignoring the mine. Even though the court ruled the government had broken the law, the Supreme Court said that it would allow the Red Chris mine to go ahead and lectured the government not to do it again. So the Harper government decided to change the environmental assessment law so it can, in future, describe a project any way it wants. The Harper government broke the law and then re-wrote it so it can do so again and again. In a real sense, they have broken the law permanently by changing it such that it will never again require full assessments.

Meanwhile, what of the Red Chris mine? The local First Nation, the Tahltan, describe the area where the mine is planned as the “Sacred Headwaters” – the birthplace of three major salmon-bearing rivers of the Stikine, Nass and Skeena. Streams will be dammed and the water bodies used as toxic dumps. Wade showed slide after slide of breathtaking beauty and abundant wildlife. The area has the largest population of Stone's Sheep as well as grizzly, moose and caribou. He made the point tellingly: none of the bureaucrats who approved the mine had ever even visited the area.

The real loss of irreplaceable wilderness while decision-making is in the grip of the most anti-environmental government in Canadian history gets lost in the media coverage of long guns and long forms. If we do not stand up and oppose the destruction of the Sacred Headwaters, when we finally emerge, as we surely will, from this dark and bleak era of Harper-rule, we will find the death of spectacular wilderness an unbearable price to have paid.