B.C. chiefs op­pose te­le­scope fund­ing

The Prince George Citizen - - News -

Canada should re­move its fi­nan­cial sup­port from a plan to build a mas­sive new te­le­scope in Hawaii on land con­sid­ered sa­cred by In­dige­nous Hawai­ians, the Union of B.C. In­dian Chiefs said Wed­nes­day.

In a let­ter to Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and Hawaii Gov. David Ige, the or­ga­ni­za­tion called for con­struc­tion plans for what’s known as the Thirty Me­ter Te­le­scope project to be shut down and for the Cana­dian govern­ment to with­draw sup­port for the project.

In April 2015, the for­mer Con­ser­va­tive govern­ment an­nounced it would pro­vide up to $243.5 mil­lion for the project over a 10-year pe­riod. The Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil is a full part­ner in the plan, along with the Cal­i­for­nia In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy, the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, and na­tional sci­ence au­thor­i­ties in In­dia, China and Ja­pan. The con­struc­tion ef­fort cleared its reg­u­la­tory hur­dles two weeks ago.

But op­po­si­tion to it has been mount­ing, with pro­test­ers block­ing a road to the sum­mit of Mauna Kea this week. The new te­le­scope would join 13 other ob­ser­va­to­ries al­ready on the vol­canic peak, a lo­ca­tion as­tronomers prize for its lack of light pol­lu­tion.

On Tues­day, a judge de­nied a mo­tion filed by te­le­scope op­po­nents seek­ing a tem­po­rary re­strain­ing or­der to stop con­struc­tion. Sev­eral dozen peo­ple have been ar­rested at the block­ade.

The fed­eral govern­ment’s sup­port for the te­le­scope runs counter to its com­mit­ment to rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with In­dige­nous Peo­ples, the Union of B.C. In­dian Chiefs said Wed­nes­day, adding it also calls upon the gov­er­nor of Hawaii to en­sure the state re­spects and pro­tects the Kanaka Maoli’s right to be stew­ards of their lands and wa­ters. The Kanaka Maoli are In­dige­nous Hawai­ians.

“The deep emo­tional, cul­tural, and spir­i­tual at­tach­ments the Kanaka Maoli have to Mauna Kea must be hon­oured,” it said.

Canada re­spects the rights of all peo­ple to voice their opin­ions in a peace­ful way, the Na­tional Re­search Coun­cil of Canada said Wed­nes­day, adding that hun­dreds of con­sul­ta­tions have taken place since the de­vel­op­ment process be­gan in 2003.

“Great care has been taken to iden­tify the best lo­ca­tion for the TMT, to have min­i­mum im­pact out of re­spect for Mauna Kea’s rich an­ces­tral his­tory and the spir­i­tual be­liefs of na­tive cul­ture,” it said in a state­ment.

“The te­le­scope will be built away from the sum­mit, one mile from Pu’u Wekiu and sev­eral hun­dred feet below it within the as­tron­omy dis­trict.”

Pu’u Wekiu is a cin­der cone on Mauna Kea, the high­est point in Hawaii.

Canada will keep work­ing with part­ners in the project to find a path for­ward and peace­fully en­gage with Hawaii, the In­dige­nous com­mu­ni­ties, and in­ter­na­tional part­ners, the re­search coun­cil added.

The of­fice of Sci­ence Min­is­ter Kirsty Dun­can echoed Wed­nes­day that the govern­ment be­lieves in mean­ing­ful con­sul­ta­tion with In­dige­nous Peo­ples and sup­ports free speech and peace­ful protest.

“Our pri­or­ity is the health and safety of all in­volved, and we trust all par­ties will act re­spect­fully and re­spon­si­bly as they work to­ward a res­o­lu­tion,” it said in a state­ment.

The de­ci­sion to fund the te­le­scope was made in 2015 by the pre­vi­ous govern­ment, it said, adding it is mon­i­tor­ing the sit­u­a­tion closely.

CP PHOTO

The sun sets be­hind tele­scopes at the sum­mit of Mauna Kea last week. Sci­en­tists are ex­pected to ex­plore fun­da­men­tal ques­tions about the uni­verse when they use a gi­ant new te­le­scope planned for the sum­mit of Hawaii’s tallest moun­tain.

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