Fish Lake (Teztan Biny)

 

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“Blue Gold: The Tsilhqot’in Fight for Teztan Biny (Fish Lake)”

A film by Susan Smitten.

~ Winner of two Honourable Mentions for Best Conservation Message and Best Use of Natural Sound in the Montana CINE International Film Festival! ~

Blue Gold expresses the Tsilhqot’in peoples’  rejection of Taseko Mines Ltd.’s initial proposal to drain Teztan Biny (Fish Lake) in order to stockpile mining waste.

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It is not possible for us to agree

to the destruction of the land

that sustains us.”

~ former Chief Marilyn Baptiste,

Xeni Gwet’in Nation.

 Mining giant takes on B.C. environmental group in defamation court battle

The B.C. Supreme Court lawsuit was launched by Taseko Mines Ltd. after the Wilderness Committee claimed during a public comment period in 2012 that the New Prosperity mine could destroy Fish Lake

VANCOUVER — Criticism of a proposed mine by an environmental group and allegations of defamation by the project’s owner have landed both parties in B.C. Supreme Court.

Taseko Mines Ltd. launched the lawsuit after the Wilderness Committee claimed during a 2012 public comment period that the New Prosperity mine could destroy Fish Lake.

The proposed gold and copper mine, 125 kilometres southwest of Williams Lake, was undergoing a federal environmental assessment when the statements were made.

Taseko lawyer Roger McConachie told court on Monday the company’s civil complaint involves five articles published by the non-profit organization, which were emailed to supporters and posted online starting in January 2012.

“You will hear submissions related to corporate entitlement to have its reputation protected by a defamation lawsuit,” said McConachie, noting he expects to spend weeks presenting evidence.

The material involves libellous descriptions of the proposed project, a letter-writing tool that encouraged re-publication of the organization’s claims and statements the company was pursuing a lawsuit with the purpose of silencing public debate, McConachie argued. Some of the statements appeared on Facebook.

He said the onus is on the defendant to prove the truth of its statements and that law presumes defamation allegations are false.

He said Taseko’s argument is not that the Wilderness Committee’s statements are unlawful because they are literal or legal innuendo, but because they create meaning that a person without special knowledge would infer.

“The claims in this case are put forward on the basis of inferential meaning that would be conveyed to the average, ordinary reader as a matter of impression,” he said.

John McManus, the chief operating officer of the mine for the past year, was the first witness and said he was part of the management decision to sue the Wilderness Committee.

“We know that taking legal proceedings is a large undertaking, can be time consuming and expensive and outcome uncertain,” he said.

“But the severity of what was being done by the Wilderness Committee … We felt that this particular attack needed to be retracted and apologized for, otherwise these things become part of the public mindset and it becomes a truth and it is not a truth.”

Supporters of the advocacy group stood on the downtown courthouse’s steps and hoisted banners, displaying slogans such as “The right to speak: More precious than gold,” and “Nature can’t be silenced.”

Joe Foy, the committee’s national campaign director, said before the proceedings began that the group’s statements outlined damage it perceives the New Prosperity mine would wreak on the environment.

“Our response is (the statements) are fair comment and as an environmental organization, that’s what we do,” he said.

The lawsuit is an example of a “classic SLAP suit,” he charged, an acronym for strategic lawsuit against public participation.

“We say its main goal is to not only put a chill on our organization, but to send a message to all citizens that if you comment on this project, you could very well likely receive papers in the mail and have to spend considerable time and resources defending yourself.”

The federal cabinet refused to grant an environmental certificate during a previous proposal for the project in November 2010, citing adverse environmental impact and the harm it would cause Fish Lake, which is significant to local First Nations.

The company reapplied with a revised plan, but following the public comment period the cabinet again rejected the $1.5-billion gold and copper mine. The B.C. government, however, has approved the earlier version and last week granted a five-year extension.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, said his organization is puzzled by the targeted lawsuit because the union has made similar and sometimes more vocal public statements about the project.

“We’re more known to shoot from the hip,” he said. “Why is the Wilderness Committee being singled out?”

Devon Page, executive director of Ecojustice, said his organization believes the lawsuit is aimed at stifling public discourse.

He argued it comes at a time when governments are trying to limit public voice to speed along large projects.

“This case is an opportunity to raise the importance of reintroducing SLAP legislation in B.C.,” he said.

The same call was made by activists during a series of recent demonstrations against the proposed Trans Mountain oil pipeline expansion through a Vancouver suburb when civil suits against protesters were launched.

Taseko is seeking general and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

            © Copyright (c) The Vancouver Sun
 New Prosperity Mine rejection a Huge Win for the Environment and Human Rights
News Release – February 27, 2014
Decision prevents significant damage to Fish Lake
VANCOUVER –

The Wilderness Committee is overjoyed at the final decision issued this week by Canada’s Environment Minister, stating that Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposed New Prosperity Mine is not authorized to proceed.In an announcement Wednesday evening, Minister Leona Aglukkaq confirmed that the federal government had considered the report of the independent Review Panel, and concluded that “the New Prosperity Mine project is likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects that cannot be mitigated.”“This decision comes as an incredible relief to all those who have wanted to see Fish Lake and the surrounding Tsilhqot’in Nation territory protected from this proposed mine project,” said Joe Foy, the Wilderness Committee’s National Campaign Director.“The Minister has absolutely made the right decision in saying ‘No’ to this risky proposal, and now that it is done with, it’s time to protect this area for good,” he said.The proposed mine, situated in Tsilhqot’in Nation Territory just west of Williams Lake, is strongly opposed by the Tsilhqot’in and their allies, and has long been a focus of conservation campaigns by groups including the Wilderness Committee.

The original Prosperity Mine proposal was turned down by the federal government in 2010, after a scathing report from the Review Panel that identified significant threats such as the loss of Fish Lake, an abundant fishing lake in the proposed mine area. The company re-submitted an application, renaming the project as the New Prosperity Mine and promising to save Fish Lake, but the revised proposal was still recognized as a major threat to the region.

While this new decision acknowledges a number of the project’s serious impacts – including adverse effects on fish and fish habitat, on the use of lands for traditional and cultural purposes, and on grizzly and moose populations – the Minister’s statement still “invites the submission of another proposal” from the proponent that addresses the government’s concerns.

“There’s no right way to do what’s wrong. Taseko’s mining plans have now been turned down twice by the federal government, and what we need now is to see these plans kicked to the curb – once and for all,” said Foy.

 

For more information:

For a summary of the second Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency report, see <http://www.ceaa-acee.gc.ca/050/documents/p63928/95790E.pdf&gt;

See the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s statement in preparation for the second Federal Review Panel public hearing on Taseko Mines Ltd.’s proposal for the New Prosperity mine: <http://www.raventrust.com/media/fishlake/20130620TsilhqotinNationPreparesforPanelHearings.pdf

For a Summary of the first Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency report, see  <http://fonv.ca/fishlake&gt;

Backgrounder at <fihttp://www.raventrust.com/fishlaketeztanbiny/video-bluegold.html>  and <http://www.raventrust.com/

July 22, 2013 – Aug. 23, 2013: Second Federal Review panel hearings on New Prosperity Mine Proposal.  Details at: <http://www.raventrust.com/events.html&gt;

Fish Lake Alliance Documents page:  <http://www.fishlakealliance.ca/Support_Documents.html&gt;

Friends of Fish Lake:  <https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfFishLake?ref=hl&gt;

R.A.V.E.N Overview:  <http://www.raventrust.com/fishlaketeztanbiny.html&gt;

Photo credit: Lorraine Weir

 

Copyright ©2017 Lorraine Weir. All rights reserved. Reproduction without permission prohibited. 

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