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Support Water Defenders in Canada

Posted in: Activism Guide, Canada
    Sunday, March 10, 2019 - 11:16

    Water defenders living in the shadow of the Mount Polley mine say their fight to protect the waters in and around Quesnel Lake is not over, despite Imperial Metals’ announcement that it will suspend operations at the mine in May, 2019 until global copper prices improve. This is why:

    • Mount Polley continues to discharge mine waste water into Quesnel Lake. The permit to discharge, which was granted by the former BC Liberal government, does not require the company to fully meet BC’s drinking water guidelines. It does require the company to make continual improvements to the technology and treatment of discharge water. However, residents monitoring the discharges say the company quickly fell out of compliance in 2017 and was granted an amendment to the permit in late 2018.
    • The mine will be required to continually monitor and manage water in the tailings pond at the site, and will continue to discharge water into Quesnel Lake. The mine is situated in a rare interior rain forest, where high rainfall and snow have led to overtopping of water in the tailings pond in the past. Residents fear that the suspension could lead to serious water management issues at the site.
    • The Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake have sought a judicial review of the company’s water discharge permit. The hearing, which is open to the public, will be held in May. Stay tuned for information about the location and times for the ten-day hearing.
    • No one has been held legally accountable for the tailings pond disaster. Prosecutors have until August 4, 2019 to lay criminal charges against those responsible for the disaster; after that, the statute of limitations for charges under the Federal Fisheries Act expires. The United Nations Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights both called on Canada to hold those responsible for the disaster to account. Time is running out.
    • Imperial Metals and the engineering firms that worked on the mine had sued one another over the disaster. However, they recently reached a settlement. Residents fear that Imperial Metals may walk away from the disaster with no more than a ‘slap on the wrist’, leaving British Columbians vulnerable to future disasters and their right to remedy and reparations denied. We must not let that happen!
    • The rights of the Secwepemc, Lhtako Dene, Tsilqot’in, and St’at’imc peoples to meaningful consultation and consent processes have been violated and the BC NDP government has not addressed these concerns. In fact, Canada has not adequately responded to recommendations made by the UN to provide health impact studies or remedy and reparations for the loss of wild salmon, food security and health harms.

    Here are 4 things you can do to show your support for human rights, the environment and water defenders affected by the Mount Polley disaster:

    1. Join us on World Water Day, March 22: We will launch a month of action and an invitation to Amnesty members to host gatherings in your community around March 22 in solidarity with those fighting to protect water at Grassy Narrows, Site C and Mount Polley. Please send an email to waterdefenders@amnesty.ca if you are interested in hosting an event and watch our Mount Polley webpage in the coming weeks for action details, talking points and an action kit.
    2. Take part in our Wild Salmon solidarity action: Cut out and write a message of support to water defenders and communities working to protect Quesnel Lake and wild salmon from further harm. Instructions and printable cut-outs can be found >>here>>.
    3. Keep the pressure on the Federal government: sign our petition calling on Prime Minister Trudeau to hold accountable those responsible for the disaster by laying charges and to provide remedy and reparations to those who were harmed. Solidarity messages and letters to the editor, supportive tweets and social media are important ways to show you are not giving up on justice for Mount Polley! Amnesty uses the hashtags #JusticeforMountPolley and #sisterstreams. Be sure to include @bcpoli @JustinTrudeau. Download our printable action.
    4. Show your solidarity with the Concerned Citizens of Quesnel Lake: If you live in Vancouver or Victoria, attend the judicial review of Mount Polley Mining Corporation’s water discharge permit this May. Show Imperial Metals that the Concerned Citizens are not alone. Check the Mount Polley webpage (link above) for the location and times of the hearing.

    Why your support is important: The way in which Canada deals with the Mount Polley mine disaster has consequences for all Canadians, especially those facing risky oil, gas and mining projects. The Mount Polley disaster exposed how Canadians are made vulnerable by weak environmental laws and compliance enforcement. Canada has a few short months to lay charges for the disaster and demonstrate it respects the rights of Indigenous peoples to consultation and consent-seeking processes, as well as the right to remedy and reparations for harms in the context of business activity. Amnesty calls on Canada to implement the UN recommendations on Mount Polley without delay.

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