Photo by Canadian Press
The Council of Canadians Quill Plains (Wynyard) chapter has written the Trudeau government calling on it to enforce the Fisheries Act in the case of the Mount Polley mine disaster. When the mine’s tailing dam ruptured in August 2014 it damaged fish habitat, a violation of the Fisheries Act.
Chapter activist Elaine Hughes writes, “It has now been over two and a half years since the Mount Polley Mine’s tailings dam collapsed and sent up to 25 million cubic metres (10,000 Olympic-size pools) of wastewater and mine waste solids into downstream waters, and, in violation of the Fisheries Act, destroying or affecting downstream waters and fish habitat. Despite clear evidence of violations of Canadian laws, no charges have been brought forward by any level of government. How can this be?”
She adds, “And, now we learn that on January 13, 2017, without even first hearing the evidence from the private prosecutor (MiningWatch), the federal government announced that it is trying to prevent MiningWatch from presenting evidence to the Court about the damages rendered by this disaster.”
In short, the Trudeau government is seeking a withdrawal of the criminal charges laid by MiningWatch (under a citizen’s provision of the Criminal Code that allows for private prosecution of offenses, such as a violation of the Fisheries Act) against Imperial Metals (the owners of the mine) before MiningWatch can even present evidence to the court on the damage the spill caused to fish habitat.
Hughes highlights in her letter to the prime minister, “This is unacceptable! We believe that the Crown is sending the wrong signal to industry across Canada; it is NOT okay for industry to inflict damage on the environment and every living thing on the planet without being held accountable. We therefore strongly urge the federal government do the RIGHT thing by enforcing its own environmental laws when they are violated. We will continue to watch how your government handles this issue.”
Our ally MiningWatch is calling on the public to seek answers and clear commitment from the federal government to enforce its own environmental laws. Please take the time to write to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (email@example.com), Dominic LeBlanc, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (firstname.lastname@example.org). and Jody Wilson-Raybould, Minister of Justice (Jody.Wilson-Raybould@parl.gc.ca). Let them know you want to the Fisheries Act to be enforced in the case of the Mount Polley mine disaster.
When you write the federal government, keep in mind how the mine disaster impacted a nearby First Nation.
In August 2016, Xat’sull member Jacinda Mack and biologist Richard Holmes wrote, “Previous to the disaster, harvesting and processing up to 200 salmon per Xat’sull family was at the heart of our food security, teaching our children about the land, and engaging in cultural practices such as trade and sharing with the less fortunate. Mount Polley responded to our ongoing concerns about contaminated salmon by delivering the equivalent of three tins of salmon per Xat’sull member last winter. The total lack of understanding and inadequate response — from a company who boasts excellent First Nations relationships — is stunning and revealing.”
The court is expected to decide in several weeks if the Crown is allowed to enter a stay of charges.
For further background, please read Mount Polley Disaster Stunner: Federal Government Moves To Stop MiningWatch From Presenting Evidence To Court (media release) and Federal Government Seeks to Quash Lawsuit Against Mount Polley and B.C. Government Before Evidence Heard (DeSmog article). For Council of Canadians blogs on the Mount Polley mine disaster, please click here.
The Council of Canadians first raised concerns about the mine disaster by participating in an August 2014 march to the Vancouver office of Imperial Metals.