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Nestlé's Extraction of Groundwater near Hope Riles First Nations

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First Nations chiefs are calling on the province to start protecting their interests, claiming Nestlé Waters Canada extracted millions of liters of groundwater, for free, from their traditional territory without consultation or compensation.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, president of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, says First Nations groups continue to be ignored by both provincial and federal governments despite a legal right to be consulted on all small- and large-scale resource development projects, whether it's groundwater extraction or fracking in northeastern B.C.

"They don't want indigenous rights and interests to stand in the way," Phillip said. "Before even moving ahead with a plan, the law dictates that we need to be consulted at the outset. It's not optional.

"Unfortunately, we find ourselves spending an inordinate amount of time in the courts because the provincial government refuses to meet that standard."

The Chawathil First Nation is laying claim to 265 million liters of water Nestlé takes every year from a well in their traditional territory in Hope. They're backed by the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, which is broadening the claim to get the province to consult with First Nations about water in B.C.

This is not the first time that First Nations have battled over groundwater. The Halalt First Nation asked the Supreme Court of Canada earlier this year to look at a controversial plan by North Cowichan to pump water for Chemainus from the Chemainus River's aquifers.    

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