Two years after the Mount Polley Mine breach the Tsilhqot’in National Government (TNG) has filed a Notice of Civil Claim in B.C. Supreme Court sighting the disaster’s impact to the fishery.
Imperial Metals, Mount Polley Mine, Knight Piésold, AMEC, and the Province of BC, have all been named in the claim, however, the TNG said while the notice has been filed, it is not yet taking active steps in the litigation.
“The TNG intends to extend the opportunity to discuss the notice with B.C. and potentially the company before proceeding further,” the TNG stated in a press release issued Monday.
The Nenqay Deni Accord, signed with the province earlier this year, creates a venue for this level of discussion, the TNG noted.
Lawyer Joseph Arvay with Farris Law is representing the TNG and said the notice was filed Aug. 3, 2016 to preserve the two-year limitation period.
“We didn’t technically serve the province, the company or the engineers,” Arvay said from his office at Farris-Vancouver. “We have a year to serve them, and it’s only once you serve them that the clock on their side starts to tick.”
According to the Supreme Court of B.C.’s website, Northern Lights Lodge Ltd. that operates out of Likely also filed a civil claim against Imperial Metals on July 29, 2016.
After 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,
This seriously impacted the 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, the TNG said.
“Ts’eman (salmon) are at the core of Tsilhqot’in culture,” said Tl’esqox (Toosey) Chief Francis Laceese. “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 the salmon is still not fully known, Laceese added.
“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. ”
As a result of the breach, the TNG said, many Tsilhqot’in people were unable to gather enough food to meet adequate sustenance levels.
The 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,” said ?Esdilagh Chief Bernie Mack. “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 also alleges that the Province of B.C. 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.
Imperial Metals said it would not be commenting on the claim.