JUNEAU — Fifteen tribal nations in Southeast Alaska have petitioned an international commission for human rights for help in influencing the Canadian government to take action against six mines in British Columbia.
The Southeast Alaska Indigenous Transboundary Commission filed the petition Wednesday, seeking support in obtaining relief from mine violations, the Juneau Empire reported.
The petition sent to the Washington, D.C-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights claims the mines are likely to pollute rivers, threatening fish populations essential to maintaining life in the tribes.
They claim that failing to prevent pollution in Alaska watersheds could constitute a violation of indigenous people's rights. The petition also claims Canada did not consult with or seek consent from the tribes during the permitting and approval process of the mines.
Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law firm, has been working with the transboundary commission for about year on drafting the 215-page petition.
"We are hoping the commission will pick up the case," said Ramin Pejan, an Earthjustice attorney. "The goal here really is to inject or raise human rights violations as a key part of the narrative with these mines, and that has been missing in the approval process thus far."
The petition makes three main requests of the human rights commission: They visit the mines to investigate and confirm threats, they hold a hearing to investigate the petition's claims, and they prepare a report setting forth the facts and laws regarding Canada's failure to implement adequate protective measures.
"The ultimate goal is to get a more in-depth review on the projects to assure that the effects are not going to impact us in a way that violates our rights for our food security and cultural existence," said Jennifer Hanlon, vice chair of the transboundary commission.
The newspaper's calls to Canada's Minister of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources weren't returned Wednesday.
The transboundary commission includes representatives from the Ketchikan Indian Community, Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and Juneau-based Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska.