VANCOUVER – The Wilderness Committee is celebrating a BC Supreme Court ruling that confirmed the environmental group was within its rights to criticize a proposed mine project located west of Williams Lake, BC.
In early 2012, Taseko Mines filed a lawsuit alleging that the Wilderness Committee made defamatory statements about the company’s New Prosperity mine project during the public comment period. In the ruling released Monday afternoon, Hon. Mr. Justice Funt dismissed Taseko’s claims and awarded the Wilderness Committee court costs as well as extra costs incurred as a result of the lawsuit.
“We are thrilled with this result. We have a responsibility to speak up about industrial projects that threaten the environment – and Taseko’s proposed mine would have had a major environmental impact,” said Gwen Barlee, National Policy Director with the Wilderness Committee. “We stood our ground and now we’re vindicated.”
In February 2014, then Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq announced her decision to reject Taseko’s New Prosperity project. The minister stated that the mine was “likely to cause significant adverse environmental effects.”
In early 2015, lawyers representing the Wilderness Committee and Taseko Mines squared off in court over a period of 10 days. The Wilderness Committee was represented by lawyers from Owen Bird Law Corporation in the proceedings.
“The court held that most of the criticisms of the project were not even defamatory, and all of them were fair comment,” said counsel Dan Burnett.
“While it certainly is a great relief to finally win our case against Taseko Mines, we are left wondering why we were dragged through the courts in the first place,” said Barlee. “It’s time for British Columbia to enact anti-SLAPP legislation to prevent this from happening again.”
The Wilderness Committee is calling on the BC government to enact anti-SLAPP legislation so that people who express their views on proposed industrial projects are not harassed with lawsuits launched against them. SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.”
“This victory is bigger than the Wilderness Committee. It’s about the public’s right to speak out on matters that affect their environment. If this decision helps advance Canadians’ rights to say exactly what they think of a proposed industrial project – without fear that they’ll be dragged into court by some corporation – then we would be very proud of that,” said Barlee.