“Transmission” Film

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Ktunaxa Nation Council appalled to learn Teck Coal has appealed the Province’s penalties for water quality pollution

Ktunaxa Nation Council appalled to learn Teck Coal has appealed the Province’s penalties for water quality pollution

 ʔa·kisk̓aqǂiʔit / Cranbrook, B.C.:

Despite reporting revenues exceeding $10 Billion CAD from its coal business unit in 2022, Teck Coal Ltd. (Teck) has chosen to file appeals to the January 2023 decisions by the Ministry of the Environment (ENV).

The ENV decisions resulted in penalties in excess of $16 Million CAD to the company for impacts to water quality in Ktunaxa ʔamakʔis, including continued exceedances of water quality limits and the failure to build and operate water treatment required under Provincial permits.

“During the time frames outlined in the penalty determinations, hundreds of thousands of kilograms of untreated contaminants—which were required to be treated—instead entered the Elk and Kootenay rivers,” Ktunaxa Nation Chair Kathryn Teneese has noted.

The Ktunaxa Nation Council (KNC) was encouraged by the provincial decision maker’s determinations, which include the recognition of Ktunaxa perspectives, jurisdiction, and involvement in trying to protect ʔa·kxam̓ is q̓api qapsin (All Living Things), including water.

These determinations demonstrate that provincial regulatory enforcement action is finally moving to hold industry accountable for its pollution in the Elk Valley.

While Teck’s appeals do not deny it failed to comply with permit conditions designed to protect the environment, the company is still seeking to have the penalties substantially reduced.

Teck contesting the penalties as too high appears to be in conflict with Teck’s own Indigenous People’s Policy, which speaks to respecting Indigenous perspectives and addressing adverse impacts from its mining operations.

“That Teck would use legal avenues to avoid and minimize responsibility rather than taking accountability for harms to the environment by paying these penalties and improving its performance is disappointing,” said Teneese. “Particularly given that KNC’s involvement was significant in informing the Ministry’s decisions and penalties.”

The Ktunaxa Nation Council views these appeals as disrespectful to both Ktunaxa exercising jurisdiction in their homelands and the regulatory regime intended to protect the environment, particularly when considering that the penalties issued to Teck amount to a mere 0.16% of the company’s 2022 coal revenues.

The Ktunaxa Nation Council will continue to advocate for ʔa·kxam̓ is q̓api qapsin, and to support compliance and enforcement actions and processes, including the determinations made by ENV on January 31, 2023.


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KNC recognizes Province for enforcing water quality regulatory requirements

KNC recognizes Province for enforcing regulatory requirements intended to address water quality pollution

Recent penalties to Teck reflect consideration of Ktunaxa rights and technical input

February 8, 2023

ʔa·kisk̓aqǂiʔit / Cranbrook, B.C.:
The Ktunaxa Nation Council recognizes B.C.’s Ministry of the Environment for acknowledging Ktunaxa rights and title, and KNC technical submissions, in its recent decision to enforce penalties to industry for not meeting water quality treatment and mitigation requirements in the Elk Valley.

In three determinations released on January 31, 2023, the Ministry’s Compliance and Environmental Enforcement Branch issued ‘administrative penalties’ in excess of $16 Million CAD to Teck Coal Ltd., for impacts to water quality in Qukin ʔamakʔis (the Elk Valley).

Natural Resources Compliance and Enforcement Database

“The KNC highlights the acknowledgement made in these determinations that the mining activities and associated impacts are within Ktunaxa territory, and that KNC will continue to be consulted on the issues that impact our rights and title and these waterways,” said Kathryn Teneese, KNC Chair.

“We have been resolute and consistent in our desire to see improvements in the mine-impacted waters in the Elk Valley, and are glad to see our contributions to this review process were well-considered in the determinations.”

“During the time frames outlined in the penalty determinations, hundreds of thousands of kilograms of untreated contaminants—which were required to be treated—instead entered the Elk and Kootenay rivers,” Teneese said.

Multiple years of non-compliance with legal regulatory requirements for water quality have had a high impact on the environment and Ktunaxa harvesting rights and cultural practices.

It is Teck’s responsibility, as the permit holder for mine operations in the Elk Valley, to design, construct, and operate water treatment mitigation to reduce the water quality contamination from coal mining operations. The failure to meet water quality limits and treatment timelines signals a serious deviation from the “valley-wide” permit. This is recognized to undermine the integrity of the regulatory regime, interfering with the Ministry’s capacity to protect and conserve the environment. It also contributes to a significant cross-boundary contamination issue.

The Administrative Penalties issued to Teck were determined under the Province’s Environmental Management Act (EMA). The Compliance and Environmental Enforcement Branch reviewed information submitted by Teck and by KNC in reaching its determinations.

“The purpose of the EMA is to protect the environment, and waste discharge standards are one way this purpose can be realized,” Teneese said. “But the standards are only as meaningful as the compliance that backs them up.

“It’s good to see the enforcement branch taking action, and we hope these actions will result in improved performance.”

KNC views the determinations as a meaningful step toward reconciliation from the Ministry of the Environment. The determinations show that B.C. recognizes the role of Ktunaxa as the stewards of ʔamakʔis Ktunaxa, and state that Ktunaxa perspective will continue to inform the process and decision-making around water quality mitigation in the Elk Valley.


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Ktunaxa Nation Council Open House February 2

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Ktunaxa solidarity with T’exelcemc


Ktunaxa solidarity with T’exelcemc

Standing with survivors as knowledge is confirmed and shared

ʔa·kisk̓aqǂiʔit / Cranbrook, B.C.:
This week, the Chief and Council of Williams Lake First Nation (WLFN) released the preliminary geophysical results from the second phase of the St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School investigation. In a presentation shared online by the WLFN, Chief Willie Sellars shared results and noted there is an abundance of evidence they are examining: Geophysical, documentary and forensic.

Kathryn Teneese, Ktunaxa Nation Council Chair, and Nasuʔkin Joe Pierre of ʔaq̓am, expressed solidarity with the T’exelcemc (people of the Williams Lake First Nation).

“Our hearts go out to those survivors who are directly impacted by any knowledge confirmed and shared by these researches,” said Kathryn Teneese. “And to all attendees and every relative of those who attended St. Joseph’s.”

“Our survivors are standing with your survivors,” said Nasuʔkin Joe Pierre of ʔaq̓am. “We know how residential schools have impacted our people and our Nations, and realize we are in this journey of healing together.”

The Ktunaxa community of ʔaq̓am was also the site of a residential school–Kootenay Indian Residential School–which was closed in 1970. Like St. Joseph’s in Williams Lake, it was primarily run by the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate of the Roman Catholic Church.

ʔaq̓am Community began an investigation involving ground-penetrating radar (GPR) into the ʔaq̓am Cemetery in February of 2020. The cemetery is adjacent to the current St. Eugene Mission Resort, (the building that was once the Kootenay Indian Residential School).

“We began our work in ʔaq̓am Cemetery as part of our caretaking and maintenance duties,” Pierre said. “This is our community cemetery, in use to this day and into the future. We realized the wooden crosses were being lost to the elements, so we began the careful work to re-establish the appropriate markers.

“We are, like Williams Lake First Nation, intent on investigating in the right way by listening to our Elders for guidance and consulting with experts in data gathering and analysis.”

Teneese added, “As our Nations walk together through these ongoing projects, and the information they reveal, we would like to acknowledge Williams Lake First Nation for their sensitive handling of this work, and to send the T’exelcemc and all residential school survivors and their families our wishes for ongoing healing.”

The Indian Residential School Survivors Society operates a crisis line to assist those impacted.
The 24-hour Crisis Line is 1.800.721.0066. http://irsss.ca/


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Ktunaxa Nation Elders

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2022-2023 Ktunaxa Citizens’ Excellence Program

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