BC Crown’s decision to quash Mount Polley private prosecution met with anger

By ThinkPol Staff

The BC Prosecution Service’s decision to dismiss the private prosecution of Mount Polley Mining Corporation over the province’s worst environmental disaster in history is being met with anger and disbelief.

The Crown announced the decision to take over and quash the charges laid by Bev Sellars, Grandmother, former Chief of Xat’sull First Nation (Soda Creek), author, and indigenous advocate, in a press release Tuesday.

“The decision in this case was made after a full and careful review of the information and materials provided by counsel for the private informant, and with awareness that a formal investigation into the Mt. Polley Mine incident is still ongoing,” the public prosecutor stated in the release. “After conducting its review, the BCPS concluded that the material provided does not meet the charge assessment standard for approval of charges.”

Mount Polley Mining Corporation’s parent company Imperial Metals is a major BC Liberal donor, having even donate generously to former premier Christy Clark’s leadership run.

Many had hoped that a change in government would pave way for the people responsible for the disaster to be brought to justice.

Sellars laid private charges against the company on Aug. 4, 2017 – which was the deadline for provincial charges to be laid, to keep the door open for the Province to take over the prosecution, although Sellars was prepared to proceed on her own if necessary.

“It is my duty as a Grandmother to protect the environment for future generations. Indigenous people’s law stresses that you have to take care of the land for generations ahead. I pushed the pause button by pressing charges against Mount Polley before BC’s statute of limitations ran out,” said Sellars. “Instead of the Crown taking over and holding Imperial Metals to account and bringing justice for this disaster, they have failed to act. They have failed First Nations, failed the people of BC, and failed future generations.”

On the same day Sellars laid private charges, August 4th, 2017, BC Premier John Horgan said “[t]o have three years pass without any consequences is disturbing to me personally and, I think, disturbing for all British Columbians.”

Sellars points out that in deciding to prosecute, or not, Crown would have had access to public reports regarding the spill, plus all the evidence supplied by her and her legal team, and all the evidence gathered by the BC Conservation Officer Service over the last three years.

“It’s ridiculous to say there wasn’t enough evidence, there was a mountain of evidence,” Sellars said, “and if prosecuting this case isn’t in the public interest I don’t know what is.”

“Apparently that wasn’t enough to prove what we could all see with our eyes,” said Jeh Custerra, campaigner for the Friends of Clayoquot Sound, one of many public groups supporting Sellar’s quest for justice.

The groups are pointing out that one of Sellars’ 15 charges was simply that there was a spill, and anyone can watch the video of it online.

Sellars and MiningWatch, which assisted in the laying of the private charges last year, say they are now reviewing their options to see if they can challenge Crown’s decision to quash the case.
They also said they are hoping the federal government will show more vigour in pursuing its case than did the BC Crown prosecutors.

Charges under the Fisheries Act can still be made until Aug. 4, 2019.

“This is a very disappointing decision that does not reflect a commitment to the environment, or reconciliation with First Nations,” Patrick Canning, counsel for Bev Sellars, said. “The province had the ability to let Ms. Sellars conduct the prosecution, and that is what should have happened.”

“It is so frustrating that there have still been no fines, penalties or charges against the company responsible for this disaster that impacted our community,” Sellars added. “We will decide soon our next steps. But if our current BC laws do not provide for a prosecution for the biggest mining spill then they are grossly inadequate. John Horgan and the BC NDP have the power to change them, and I hope they do. No one else should have to go through this.”

[Photo Credit: Jeremy Board]