Shuswap activist group occupies Imperial Metals office

Occupation of company's Vancouver office follows Mount Polley blockade

Secwepemc Women's Warrior Society members give the finger while occupying Imperial Metals' office. | Facebook

A group of First Nations called the Secwepemc Women's Warrior Society are ramping up pressure on Imperial Metals (TSX:III) by occupying the mining company’s Vancouver office.

Last week, on August 4, the group blockaded the road leading to the mining company’s Mount Polley copper mine for several hours.

On Tuesday morning, Aug. 8, they issued a press release announcing they have occupied Imperial Metals’ office at 580 Hornby Street, according to a press release. The company did not immediately confirm that the office was being occupied and has not yet responded to calls.

The group’s leader, Kanahus Manuel, said the group wants the mine shut down. Two years ago, the Mount Polley mine’s tailings pond collapsed, releasing mine slurry into local waters.

The Tsilhqot’in First Nation just recently filed a damages claim against the B.C. government, Imperial Metals and two engineering firms employed by the company.

The Secwepemc Women's Warrior Society is opting for direct action, rather than legal action, in its attempt to shut the mine down.

“We want to show Imperial Metals and all levels of government that we can and will shut this mine down in assertion of our Indigenous rights and the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples,” Manuel said in a news release.

“The province has no jurisdiction to be issuing permits to companies illegally operating on our sovereign territories without the free, prior, informed consent of the Secwepemc Tribal Peoples.”

However, it does not appear the group actually represents the Secwepemc people, otherwise known as the Shuswap. The Shuswap Tribal Council represents nine bands.

The Secwepemc Women's Warrior Society does not recognize the elected leadership of two of the bands within the tribal council, however. Both the Soda Creek and Williams Lake bands signed agreements with the B.C. government to address environmental concerns around the mine so it could be reopened.

“The (Department of Indian Affairs) chiefs of the Soda Creek and Williams Lake Indian Bands have no jurisdiction or authority to support the re-opening of the Mount Polley mine,” April Thomas of the Secwepemculecw Grassroots Movement said in an Aug. 4 press release.