Call the Minister to demand accountability for Mount Polley mine disaster
Canadian Authorities Need to Hear From You About the Mount Polley Mine Disaster
When I met people in British Columbia whose lives were changed by the 2014 Mount Polley copper mine disaster, they shared with me the stories they had been told by authorities: the mine was designed to be the best in class, it was never meant to discharge waste water into the local environment, the disaster was an unforeseeable event, the water was safe for people and salmon, the province would make sure Quesnel Lake was returned to its pristine state and the polluter, Imperial Metals, would pay for the clean up costs.
In the four years that I have worked with people in communities harmed by the tailings collapse, I have learned, like them, that none of those stories are true.
Instead, we learned that the province’s mining regulatory regime is inadequate to protect human rights and authorities are all-too-willing to allow companies to amend their existing permits to do things they promised they wouldn’t do…. Like discharge toxic mining waste water into Quesnel Lake. People living near Quesnel Lake rely on clean, fresh water for drinking, recreation and healthy food.
To make matters worse, British Columbia could have sought charges for violations of its environmental laws or allowed two private prosecutions for damages to go forward, but it did neither. A criminal investigation into Imperial Metals and its subsidiary, Mount Polley Mining Corporation, by the RCMP, Environment and Climate Change,Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the BC Conservation Officer Service has been underway since 2015.
After hearing from those directly affected by the disaster in 2017, both the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights and the UN Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination called on Canada to hold those responsible for the disaster to account and to release studies about the potential health impacts on Indigenous peoples.
But as of April 2019, Canada has done neither. In fact, no charges have been filed nor fines or penalties sought from Imperial Metals, the company that owns the mine. The limitation period for the government to lay charges for violations of the federal Fisheries and Oceans Act expires in a few months.
When a disaster happens, the world watches to see how governments react and tend to the needs of people who were harmed. In the case of the Mount Polley mine disaster, Canada's ongoing reluctance to hold those responsible to account sends a devastating message that authorities aren't willing to put people and the environment before profit. It signals that companies, like Imperial Metals, will be rewarded with new permits, tax breaks such as hydro rate deferrals, and permit amendments, regardless of whether they respect human rights, the rights of Indigenous peoples, or clean up their pollution.
We can’t let that happen. Will Canada act?
That is the question I invite you to join me in asking Canadian authorities.
Take Action! >Call the federal Ministers
We will provide you with instructions, a script and talking points, as well as background information to help you feel comfortable and empowered to raise your voice for #JusticeforMountPolley!
Tara Scurr is the Business and Human Rights Campaigner for Amnesty International Canada. She supports territory, land and environmental rights defenders and works to hold governments and companies accountable for human rights abuses.