Last-minute Charges Laid Against Mount Polley in Private Prosecution Against Mount Polley in Private Prosecution Print
Justice News
Posted by Joan Russow
Saturday, 05 August 2017 12:20

Last-minute Charges Laid Against 
Mount Polley in Private Prosecution Carol Linnitt - August 4, 2017

In a surprise eleventh-hour move, indigenous activist and former Chief of the Xat’sull First Nation, Bev Sellars, has filed charges against the Mount Polley Mining Corporation, owned by Imperial Metals, for the mine disaster that saw 24 million cubic metres of mine waste released into Quesnel Lake on this day, three years ago.


We just couldn’t let it go,” Sellars said in a press release. “In my culture, we have a sacred responsibility not only to care for the land, waters, animals, and people living today, but also for the next seven generations to come.”

Private prosecutions in general are unusual,” Canning told DeSmog Canada, adding the last-minute nature of the charges was due, in part, to waiting on potential charges from the new government.

Sellars said she hopes her private prosecution could act as a ‘door stopper’ for B.C., allowing the provincial Conservation Service Office to complete its investigation.

“While we are ready to go to full trial if necessary, we also believe it is ultimately the province’s job to enforce its own laws when they are violated,” Sellars said.

“If B.C. laws cannot be enforced when such a massive mining spill occurs, then we have a serious problem in B.C. and we must act to fix these laws.”

Gage said the rate of successful prosecution in environmental cases has dropped since the 1990s and early 2000s.

“I think that we need to have an expectation that laws will be enforced, even against, maybe especially against powerful players that can cause great environmental harm,” he said.

“The other things is there is a very practical consideration in bringing a prosecution and that is under the Environmental Management Act, the court can actually order alternative remedies, like remediation, compensation, restoration of fish habitat —all these practical consideration that the community around Quesnel Lake need desperately,” Gage said.

The case would also send a broader message to industry that environmental rules will be enforced in B.C., he said.

“I think it’s important when you’re dealing with an industry that has a temptation to cut corners…they need to know, given the consequences this industry can have, that they will be caught and there will be consequences for polluting when they don’t follow the law.”

Sellars’ private prosecution was brought with support from a number of organizations including MiningWatch Canada, West Coast Environmental Law’s Environmental Dispute Resolution Fund, the Wilderness Committee, and the First Nation Women Advocating For Responsible Mining.

Image: Aerial view of the Mount Polley mine tailings pond on August 4, 2014. Photo: Cariboo Regional District

Last Updated on Sunday, 13 August 2017 00:18