Williams Lake – The Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) has filed a Notice of Civil Claim in the BC Supreme Court against Imperial Metals, Mount Polley, Knight Piesold, AMEC, and the Province of BC in response to the Mount Polley Mine tailings storage facility breach, which occurred on August 4, 2014.
In response to the breach, a State of Emergency was declared, and ‘no fishing’ and ‘no water use’ orders were put in place for Quesnel Lake and Quesnel River. The breach seriously impacted traditional fishing of the Tsilhqot’in Nation, with many members unsure of the safety of consuming fish from the Fraser, Chilcotin, Chilko and Taseko rivers. As a result, many Tsilhqot’in people were unable to gather enough food to meet adequate sustenance levels.
“Ts’eman (salmon) are at the core of Tsilhqot’in culture,” says Chief Francis Laceese of Tl’esqox. “Any threat to the salmon we depend on has the potential to directly impact the livelihoods of us as Tsilhqot’in people. The full impact to our Ts’eman is still not fully known. Our people will not stand by and watch environmental disasters wipe out our sources of food, spirit, and ceremony. We already are facing a huge impact to our sustenance because of the dramatic moose decline in the Territory. This is our economy and right that is impacted.”
The community of ?Esdilagh, located on the banks of the Fraser River, relies heavily on the Quesnel sockeye stock for food. TNG also delayed an in-river commercial fishery licensed by DFO due to the uncertainty of the safety of the fish, which led to significant loss.
“Not only were our people directly impacted by the uncertainty of the safety of our fish and wildlife for consumption, but the economic development of our nation was also affected as our commercial fishery was effectively cancelled,” says Chief Bernie Mack of ?Esdilagh First Nation. “We are filing this Notice to hold the company, its engineers and the Province accountable and to ensure our people receive compensation for the failure of the Province of BC and Imperial Metals and the huge impact this disaster has had on our food and economies. We are disappointed the Province has given the Company a free pass. This is not an example of responsible and sustainable mining.”
The Notice of Civil Claim asserts that the responsibility for the damages to the Tsilhqot’in people lies with Imperial Metals, Mount Polley, Knight Piesold, AMEC, and the Province of BC. The Notice alleges that the Province of BC failed to meet reasonable standards of inspection and regulation, while the company and engineers acted negligently or otherwise failed to meet their duties to protect the public and the Tsilhqot’in people from this type of disaster.
TNG has filed the Notice but is not yet taking active steps in the litigation. TNG intends to extend the opportunity to discuss the Notice with BC and potentially the company before proceeding further. The Nenqay Deni Accord creates a venue for this level of discussion.