Wilderness Committee to appear in court to answer Taseko's defamation charge
The Wilderness Committee will appear in court in Vancouver starting today to defend against a defamation suit brought by Taseko Mines Ltd. The lawsuit stems from comments made by the Wilderness Committee in 2012, during a public comment period for Taseko's proposed New Prosperity Mine.
To read the claims filed in court by Taseko, click on the first link below. To read the statement filed in response, click on the second link below; it also contains maps of the proposed mine workings, taken from Taseko's proposal, showing how Little Fish Lake would be obliterated.
The mine proposal, which risked harming Fish Lake (“Teztan Biny”) and other associated fish habitat, was since turned down by the Government of Canada because of unacceptable risks to the environment and Aboriginal rights.
Meanwhile, Taseko recently announced that "The BC Minister of Environment has granted a 5 year extension to the environmental assessment certificate for development of the Prosperity gold-copper project." Taseko is also awaiting a decision on its attempt to sue the federal government over its rejection of the New Prosperity mine for environmental reasons.
“We say that this court action by Taseko Mines is meant to put a chill on public opposition. Like many others, we want to see the Fish Lake area protected and the company’s mine plans abandoned forever,” said Joe Foy, National Campaign Director for the Wilderness Committee. “Lawsuits like these eat away at the very foundations of democracy and free speech, which form the basis of our society. We intend to stand our ground,” said Foy.
Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs spoke out: “The fight to protect Teztan Biny is not just about a mine, it’s about upholding First Nations’ title and rights. Taseko’s proposed mine is within Tsilhqot’in territory and the UBCIC fully supports the Tsilhqot’in Nation Government’s great opposition to it," said Grand Chief Phillip. "The stated positions of First Nations and the carefully considered opinions of environmental groups like the Wilderness Committee are vital, and should never be allowed to be smothered by deliberate legal intimidation,” he said.
Devon Page, Exectuive Director of Ecojustice, said "All voices need to be heard in the continuing debate about environmental protection in this province. Using the court to stifle public discussion does not result in better government decision-making and it certainly doesn't result in better outcomes for the environment or for the people of British Columbia."
Councillor Marilyn Baptiste of the Xeni Gwet'in First Nation also commented:
“A SLAPP suit against our friends at the Wilderness Committee is atrocious. The Wilderness Committee has shown longstanding support for the Tsilhqot'in and we stand in solidarity with them now,” said Councillor Baptiste. “The Tsilhqot'in opposition to both Prosperity Mine proposals was voiced by Elders, youth and leaders, and experts agreed in both CEAA panel reviews. Our voices echo this position every day at the thought of anyone destroying our wild rainbow trout or grizzly bear habitat and not considering our future generations and our Aboriginal rights and title,” she said.
The Widerness Committee "Response" includes maps taken from Taseko MInes' new proposal; the second map shows how the planned project would impact watercourses and obliterate Little Fish Lake.