The BC Prosecution Service has directed a stay of proceedings in a private prosecution against the Mount Polley Mine dam failure. Monica Lamb-Yorski photo

Prosecution service halts private case against Mount Polley dam failure

Former chief surprised her private prosecution has been stayed

A stay of proceedings has been directed in a private prosecution made by former Xat’sull First Nation (Soda Creek) Chief, Bev Sellars, against the August 2014 Mount Polley Mine dam failure near Likely, B.C.

The BC Prosecution Service announced Tuesday in a press release it had made the decision to direct a stay of proceedings after a full careful review of the information and materials provided by Sellars’ counsel.

When reached by phone Tuesday, Sellars told the Tribune it “was the first” she had heard of the stay of proceedings, adding she had a court date set for Jan. 31.

On Thursday, Sellars said in a press release that she filed the prosecution because it is her duty as a grandmother to protect the environment for future generations.

“I pushed the pause button by pressing charges against Mount Polley before B.C.’s statute of limitations ran out,” Sellars said. “Instead of the Crown taking over and holding Imperial Metals to account and bringing justice for this disaster, they have failed to act. They have failed First Nations, failed the people of B.C. and failed future generations.”

In the press release, BCPS stated on August 4, 2017, Sellars swore a private information alleging that the Mount Polley Mining Corporation (MPMC) had committed various offences contrary to the provincial Environmental Management Act and Mines Act.

“After conducting its review, the BCPS concluded that the material provided does not meet the charge assessment standard for approval of charges.”

The BCPS also noted the formal investigation into the Mount Polley Mine incident is ongoing.

Sellars, however, said “it’s ridiculous to say there wasn’t enough evidence, there was a mountain of evidence, and if prosecuting this case isn’t in the public interest I don’t know what is.”

MiningWatch, who launched a private prosecution of the mine disaster that was also stayed, said Thursday they are now working with Sellars to review their options to see if they can challenge the Crown’s decision to quash the case, and hoping the federal government will show more vigour in pursuing its case than the B.C. Crown prosecutors did.

Charges under the Fisheries Act can still be made until Aug. 4, 2019.

Patrick Canning, counsel for Bev Sellars, said it was a very disappointing decision that does not reflect a commitment to the environment, or reconciliation with First Nations.

“The province had the ability to let Ms. Sellars conduct the prosecution, and that is what should have happened,” Canning said.

Read More: MiningWatch Canada’s private prosecution of Mount Polley disaster stayed

Read More: Mount Polley shares remediation plan

This story was updated from the original with comments from Bev Sellars, her lawyer and MiningWatch Canada

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